“We Likke but we Tallawah”

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Collage and acrylic on hardboard panels, 20′ x 6′

Now that Starbucks has officially opened their first cafe in Montego Bay I no longer have to keep my work a secret! It all started towards the end of the summer with an email and then a phone call from the wonderful Starbucks designer Denise. Then some brainstorming, a few watercolor sketches, the submission and the approval process, and we were off, into the big time with 5 4’x6′ panels stretching the length of my veranda. Just feet away the deluge of passing hurricanes dumped never-ending rain as I pored through stacks of  my mother-in-laws recent Gleaners, which as Divine Guidance would have it were filled with the best photographs of Jamaican life, having just come through the London Olympics and the season of Emancipation and Independence. Slowly over the weeks the piece took shape, and when it was finished we hired a van to get it across the island to the beautiful space of the new cafe, where my super-talented husband Bruce installed it. I did some finishing touches, and we met another lovely Starbucks designer, Jeremiah, who lit the piece so perfectly – every artist’s dream – and we stayed with our lovely friends at The Wharf House, a slice of heaven. Every moment of the experience was wonderful, and I am so thankful for this opportunity to have grown as an artist. With Jamaican culture as my subject it was a heartfelt and enriching experience in every way. Below, after these shots of details, is a description of the work:

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Installation and finishing touches time…

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detail – The Doctor Bird, symbol of Jamaica

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detail – the sky a quilt of songsheets, the hills a host of musicians

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detail – the mane resplendent with athletes

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detail – Montegonians and local dress designers Sandra Kennedy and her mother

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detail – the Jamaican national anthem

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detail – Usain Bolt on top of the world!

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detail – the louvres a bank of artistes

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a cameo of Jamaican life culture

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detail – Bolt, Marcus Garvey, Peter Tosh and more…

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detail – Bolt in the coffee bushes

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During installation…

A description of the whole piece:

“This bright and colorful mural celebrates the best of Jamaica; from our musicians to our athletes to our world-famous coffee and our beautiful island landscape, it illustrates a common Jamaican expression, “Wi Likkle but wi Tallawah’, meaning that although we are small, our impact is massive!

Prominently featured in the center of the piece is the Lion of Judah, a symbol of strength and pride, an icon internationally associated with the Reggae music of Jamaica. Facing the lion is the Doctor bird, a hummingbird endemic to the island and the national bird of Jamaica. Known in Jamaican folklore as a messenger from the spirit world, it is a fitting homage to the lasting influence of those who have built our culture over time. The juxtaposition of the beauty, speed and agility of such a feisty little bird with the noble majesty and stature of the handsome lion represents the best of the Jamaican character; charisma, dignity, confidence, joy and winning speed.

On either end of the mural coffee branches grow, their berries glistening gold and red, representing what many connoisseurs consider to be the best coffee in the world. Behind them is the landscape of the Blue Mountains, where the famous coffee bushes grow, and above this view of the island’s interior a bank of louvers frames the composition. This tropical architectural element is also featured above the windows of the coffee shop, thereby connecting the mural with the space within which it is displayed.

 

The mural is created with layers of collaged paper taken from local newspapers, and from album covers spanning years of the island’s musical output. All the images feature the people of Jamaica, and these layers of collage are combined with glazes of paint. The overall effect is rich and resonant, allowing for much of Jamaican culture to be explored and enjoyed by the viewer. It is guaranteed to give rise to many conversations that center on an appreciation of just how much this little island has given the world.

To list just a few:

  • The lion’s mane is a mass of athletes, all wearing the yellow gear of our track teams, our footballers and our cricketers, and crowning the top of the mane (and indeed the world), a victorious Usain Bolt revels in glory. The Lion’s face features The Skatalites, Peter Tosh, and a young boxer, and emerging from the lion’s ear is the wonderful Jimmy Cliff, star of the film ‘The Harder They Come’.
  • The sky against which the Doctorbird hovers is a quilt of well-known songs and lyrics; Sitting in Limbo, My Boy Lollipop, No Woman No Cry and many, many more
  • The louvers filter light through a dancing couple, and beside them are album covers of the music of ska, Ernest Ranglin, Third World, Harry Belafonte, Shaggy, Sizzla and Damian Marley, to name just a few. On the other side of the Lion the louvers feature the National Anthem, a salutation to Jamaican farmers, and a headline mentioning the Jamaican Chess team.
  • The Blue Mountains undulate behind beachgoers enjoying their Beach Day, and emerging from the rich green hillsides are the faces of Grace Jones, Steel Pulse, Luciano, Buju Banton, Bob Marley, Millie Small and Miss Lou. James Bond, a character created in Jamaica by Ian Fleming, blends in with the mists and the Lion’s whiskers.
  • Amongst the coffee branches and flowers, Starbucks’ intention to support Jamaican farmers is featured, as are local fashion creators Sandra Kennedy and her mother, and on a coffee leaf on the far left side, Usain Bolt points his iconic pose to the Doctor bird in the sky.”
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