Jamaica – ohhhhhh yes!

Posted by on 6 Aug 2012 in Blog, Inspiration, My life | 6 comments

Jamaica – ohhhhhh yes!

One of my earliest memories is sitting on the grass watching an Independence Day parade.  Jamaica gained independence from Britain 6 August 1962, almost exactly two years after I was born. And today, we celebrate 50 years of emancipation.


And so, Jamaica, the land of my birth and a country that has a deep place in my heart, has been on my mind. In honour of the occasion, I’d like to share the work of some of the Jamaican artists I recall from my growing up years.  Information about many of the artists can be found on the National Gallery of Jamaica blog. I had some difficulty obtaining images for all the artists – thank heavens for the internet but of course the quality will vary so apologies in advance. I do have a book of Jamaican art somewhere….where is it when I need it???


The earliest artist in this list is Issac Mendes Belisario (1795-1849), the first documented Jamaican-born artist. I remember seeing images of his Sketches of Character in my childhood.

I.M. Belisario, "Cocoa Walk Estate" ~1840. Beautiful Jamaica!


I.M. Belisario, "Sketches of Character-Jaw Bone or House John-Canoe," 1837-38


Going by date of birth, next there’s Edna Manley (1900-1982). Considering time and place, I am in awe of this woman’s work! Edna Manley also happened to be the mother of one of Jamaica’s more well know prime ministers, Michael Manley.

Edna Manley, "Prophet," 1935, 30.5" h


Edna Manley, "Negro Aroused," 1935, 25" h. Probably one of Edna's most well known pieces


Then there’s Carl Abrahams (1911-2005), often referred to as the Father of Jamaican Art. Interestingly, I just found out while researching for this post, that it was on the urging of renowned British artist, Augustus John, who was visiting Jamaica, that Carl began painting professionally in 1937. Prior to that he was a cartoonist for Jamaica’s daily newspaper, The Gleaner.

Carl Abrahams, "Last Supper" - one of Carl's most famous paintings

Carl Abrahams, "Angels at the Birth of Christ," 1979


And born in the same year as Carl is the artist known as Kapo (1911-1989), one of Jamaica’s most well known ‘Intuitive’ artists.

Kapo, "Ackee Grove," 1987?

Kapo, "Happiness in a Mango Walk," 1993


Albert Huie (1920-2010), also called the Father of Jamaican painting, only passed away a couple of years ago. I have long admired his work. As a point of interest, he worked as an assistant to Edna Manley in the 1940s.

Albert Huie, "Self Portrait," ~1943

Albert Huie, "Crop Time," 1955



Eugene Hyde (1931-1980) completed a Masters degree in Los Angeles before returning to Jamaica in the 1960s. Along with Barrington Watson and Karl Parboosingh, he co-founded the Contemporary Artist Association.

Eugene Hyde, From the Croton series, 1974, mixed media on canvas

Eugene Hyde, "Good Friday (Casualty Series)," 1978. I just love this piece!


Colin Garland (1935-2007) was born in Australia but he studied in England where he met Jamaicans. These connections prompted his first trip to Jamaica in 1962 where he eventually settled. He painted exotic fantasies which have always intrigued me even if they hardly make sense!

Colin Garland, "Fairyscape"

Colin Garland, "Mandy," 1995


Barrington Watson (b.1931) studied at the Royal College of Art in London. After much travelling, in 1961, the year prior to Independence, he too returned to Jamaica. I grew up with a portrait of my Mum painted by Barrington hanging just outside my bedroom door. I remember always being in awe of Mum’s white pleated skirt.

Barrington Watson, "Conversation"

Barrington Watson, "Mother and Child" - Isn't this the most beautiful picture?


Speaking of my Mum, here’s a sample of her work since she too is a Jamaican artist as is my dad but I don’t have any images of his work handy. Another time Dad!


Joanne Sibley, "The Breadfruit Tree"

Joanne Sibley, "Village Life"


A good friend of Mum’s, Susan Alexander (b 1929), is well known in Jamaica for her figures of Jamaican life. Born in New York, she studied at Pratt Institute, Skidmore College, and then a year at l’Ecole des Beaux Arts before becoming a Jamaican resident in 1951. As an aside, I remember Susan painting away in her studio by the pool where I took swimming lessons from her husband Neville Alexander.

Susan Alexander, "Flower Sisters"


Susan Alexander, "Pocomania"


We had a George Rodney (b 1936) painting hanging in the house too. I always loved his abstracted figures and combinations of colours.

George Rodney, "Reverie," acrylic on canvas, 30x36"

George Rodney, "Sunday Stock," acrylic on canvas, 48x36"


I met Graham Davis (b.1944) many years ago. I was charmed by him and his lovely home in the hills of Jamaica. I had seen and admired his work in the home of my aunt Pat and uncle Geoffrey and so it was a great pleasure to finally meet him.

Graham Davis, "An Exploding Bromeliad," acrylic on board, 36x24"

Graham Davis, "Ladies in Lavender," acrylic on board, 24x18" In this piece you can really see the texture.


And finally, there’s Laura Facey (b. 1954) who created the powerful sculptures in Emancipation Park, a fitting way to end this tribute to Jamaican artists on this anniversary of Jamaica’s independence.

Laura Facey, "Redemption Song," 2003, 10x11', bronze figures



Of course I absolutely cannot end this post without mentioning Usain “Lightening” Bolt who won the men’s 100m at the London Olympics yesterday four years after his win in Beijing. Not only that but Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce also won again in the women’s 100m.  There’ll be some crazy celebrations going on in Jamaica today what with dominating the 100m Olympic athletic events AND the 50th anniversary of Jamaican Independence!!!

Ahhhh….Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica land we love.

If you have anything to say about this post (or any additions or corrections!), I’d love to hear from you. Click on the title of the post and you’ll end up on my website where you’ll find the comment box.

Until next time,









  1. Thanks for this Gail. Lovely stories and history about Jamaica. I love the Redemption Song bronze figures – really powerful.

    I have texted you an image of “Country Shop – Jamaica” by your Dad, just happened to have this one handy on the wall in our living room!

    I am modelling today and next Monday at Core Inn…. let Mum know.


    • Glad you enjoyed!

      When Laura’s sculpture was unveiled there was much controversy primarily to do with the nudity and specifically because of the size of the man’s penis. Here’s a rebuttal by David Boxer, former Director of the National Gallery of Jamaica: “…I see two human beings, two black human beings, one male, one female, standing in ‘the healing stream.’ They are resplendent in their purity; their heads are raised heavenwards in prayer…yes, this is a prayer – the work is a silent hymn of communion with, and thanksgiving to, the almighty. Their nudity is part of their potency – it is part of the meaning of their emancipation; their rebirth into freedom. They stand there as a symbol of the naked truth of the argument of emancipation; the truth that we are all equal in the eyes of God…”

      This website gives a view showing the front of the male figure and:

      And this one talks about the controversy, interestingly referencing Edna Manley’s Negro Aroused:

      I’ll get some of Dad’s work on a blog yet! Sorry, no time today to tell Mum you are modelling – no doubt she is there drawing you as I write! I’ll probably see you next Monday.

  2. A powerful tribute to a creative people. Edna Manley’s sculpture is amazing in its power. Loved your Mum’s vitality in her work–just like herself. Thanks for sharing! Happy Independence Day! Love Bettie and Sera

    • Thanks Bettie!

      Here are some other links that that include brief bios of Edna Manley:
      This link also includes bios of Norman and Michael Manley (as well as other famous Jamaican figures)

      I think you read Rachel Manley’s memoirs “Drumblair, Memories of a Jamaican Childhood” and then “Slipstream:A Daughter Remembers” about her father Michael Manley. Did you know that Rachel also wrote a book devoted to her grandmother Edna? It’s called “Horses in Her Hair” and is the third in the trilogy. I only discovered this in my research and so haven’t read it yet.

  3. Such beautiful pieces. Makes me proud to hail from the same land as many of these talented artists. Do you know if any of them have prints of their work available? The cost for originals is completely out of my scope, but it would be nice to even have postcards or other references of these beautiful pieces.
    Such I nice thing you mentioned around growing up around some of this amazing art

    • So glad you enjoyed and yes, I too am proud. I am sure that many have prints of their work available. Have you tried doing a search on the internet?

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