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One of the first art exhibitions to focus exclusively on the visual culture of slavery and emancipation in Jamaica, ended at the Yale University Centre for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut, last weekend.
Displayed for the first time, the works focused on life on the Jamaican sugar plantations, slavery and the Jamaican landscape from the start of the British rule in 1655 to the aftermath of emancipation in the 1840s.
The exhibition also featured lectures, workshops, concerts, tours and a film series of Jamaican screen treasures, including The Harder They Come, Rockers, Life & Debt, and a documentary on National Hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey – Look For Me In The Whirlwind. At the centre of the exhibition, which ran from September to December, was a series of lithographs entitled ‘Sketches of Character’, made by Jewish Jamaican born artist/curator, Isaac Mendes Belisario. This provided a visual presentation of Jonkonnu (John Canoe), the celebrated Afro-Jamaican masquerade performed by slaves during the Christmas and New Year holidays. Organized to commemorate the bicentenary of the abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in 1807, the exhibition also featured works from private and public collections in Jamaica, including the National Gallery of Jamaica, the National Library of Jamaica, the Institute of Jamaica as well as organisations in the USA and Great Britain.
The exhibition was supported by The Reed Foundation, USA.