The Full Story
The Office of the General Secretariat, Organization of American States (GS/OAS) in Jamaica has announced winners of this year’s Art and Poetry Competition.
In the Art category, student at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Western Jamaica Campus, Sashane Smith, took first place for her piece, ‘Abandon Ship’, while former student of the St. Andrew High School for Girls, K’yana Edwards, placed second for her piece, ‘But Never Attained’. York Castle High School Student, Nicarr Gordon, secured third place for ‘Lost African’.
Reciting works of contemporary literature in the form of poetry, Manchester High School student, Brianna Salmon, was awarded first place for her submission. The award for second place went to student of UWI, Mona Campus, Tashay Phillips, for her poem titled, ‘Resistance to Slavery and Racism’, while former student of the Rusea’s High School, Dane Egla, came in third for his poem, ‘Black Lives Matter’.
Finalists were selected based on the meaning, interpretation, and clarity of the theme to the viewer; creativity and originality of the depicted theme; beauty, quality and overall design of composition based on the theme, and their overall impression of the art and poetry.
The competition, held in celebration of the Fifth Annual Inter-American Week for People of African Descent in the Americas (March 21-25), was staged in collaboration with the Faculty of Social Sciences and the Faculty of Humanities at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona.
The GS/OAS dedicated this week to remembering the legacy of slavery, the slave trade, and its consequences in the lives of Afro-descendants who continue to confront numerous challenges that impede their full enjoyment of human rights and social inclusion.
The competition included 22 participants, aged 16 to 25, who displayed their unique perception of the theme, ‘Stories of Courage in the Americas: Resistance to Slavery and Unity against Racism’. Of the 22 competitors, six finalists were announced at an awards ceremony on Friday, March 25.
OAS Resident Representative, Jeanelle van GlaanenWeygel, said that the Competition was included in the celebrations of the Inter American Week for People of African Descent (IAWAD) in the Americas this year, to provide a platform to amateur artists and writers in the region.
“My favorite part of the job includes our work with and for our young people, as I always sincerely hope that our contributions, no matter how big or small, can lead to great doors of opportunity opening for our Caribbean youth,” she added.
Ms. Smith, who submitted an abstract canvas painting, overcame the feeling of self-doubt to set the standard for innovation and creativity.
“I didn’t think I would have won first place. The competition for me was kind of a confidence booster, because I want to paint more. I remember telling my mom that it didn’t matter if I won or lost, I just wanted to present my piece,” she said.
“When I heard that I came first, I started to scream, and cry. I had a few paintings; however, I thought that this painting would fit the competition well and winning has really shown me that I submitted the right piece,” she added.
Ms. Edwards, who submitted a mixed-media painting that features aspects of Bob Marley’s song, ‘War’, said that “until there is equality among people, there’s going to be constant strife”.
In thanking the sponsors and the OAS for presenting her with such an amazing opportunity, Ms. Edwards said she was drawn to the competition based on the theme and the stories of courage.
“Very often we don’t get to tell our own stories. I think it is really cool that this competition gives us a chance, especially youth in Jamaica, to tell our stories and hear our interpretations of how we have experienced life so far,” she said.
Second place entrant in the poetry segment, Ms. Phillips said her submission was an ode of the stories of courage told by the ancestors and how they are unfolding in present lives.
These stories, she added, “force us to ask ourselves whether the past is the present or if the present is the past”.
“When they announced that I was the first runner-up, I was shocked because I didn’t expect to place. The poem was written and submitted at the very last minute. I saw the competition poster two days before the deadline, so I hurried and put something together, as I didn’t want such an opportunity to pass me by,” she said.
Having placed second in the competition, she hopes to write a book of poetry that can be used in schools.
Mr. Egla, for his poetry submission, drew inspiration from talks he heard surrounding racism and slavery while growing up.
“A lot of times I hear persons talking about slavery and racism and as a young person I didn’t take it seriously. After the 2022 passing of George Floyd, however, my eyes were opened. A petition demanding the termination and arrest of Minneapolis police officers who played a role in his death was being distributed. I didn’t think that was enough to bring justice to him, and so I decided to write this poem to express how I felt,” he said.
Mrs. van GlaanenWeygel said that she is “very pleased that the Office of the General Secretariat of the OAS in Jamaica, with the generous support from partners and sponsors, was able to organise the Art and Poetry Competition”.
The winners in both categories received tablets, courtesy of Digicel Group. The first runners-up were gifted $30,000.00 each, while the third-place participants got $20,000 from JN Bank.
Mrs. van GlaanenWeygel said that much of the work in the OAS Office in Jamaica is made possible through the invaluable support of partners and sponsors.
The Inter-American Week for People of African Descent in the Americas is an annual event, which provides OAS member states with an opportunity to reflect on issues affecting persons of African descent and commemorate their significant contributions to the development of societies in the Americas.