Hundreds Bid Farewell to the Late Dr. Olive Lewin


Woman of grace, passionate, and prolific, were some of the accolades used to describe late cultural icon, Dr. the Hon. Olive Lewin, by persons attending Saturday’s (April 27) Official Funeral, at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Chapel in St Andrew.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, and Opposition Leader, Andrew Holness, who read the First and Second Lessons, respectively, headed the wide cross section of persons attending to pay their final respects to renowned musicologist, who passed away on April 10.

Hundreds of well wishers slowly filed into the chapel, filling up pews from as early as 11:00 a.m., while others flocked the church grounds, as they awaited the arrival of the flag-draped casket bearing Dr. Lewin, which was carried into the church by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Bearer Party.

For one hour, the sanctuary was filled with musical tributes provided by organizations and persons with whom Dr. Lewin was associated during her lifetime. They included: the Carifolk Singers; Hampton Choir; Peter Ashbourne and Friends; Jamaica Orchestra for Youth; Blind Association of Jamaica Singers; and the Hampton Old Girls Association.

These were followed by glowing tributes from several speakers, which painted picturesque synopses and conjured captivating snapshots of the late social anthropologist, who served as a mentor to many.

In her tribute, Youth and Culture Minister, Hon. Lisa Hanna, said, through her work, Dr. Lewin honoured the memory of unsung heroes and heroines who, by their struggle and sacrifice, laid the foundation for national development and growth.

“Because of Olive Lewin, our people are better able to reach out to each other and say, ‘Come mek mi hol’ yu han’. Because of Olive Lewin we learned to remember the art of masquerade that helped us through hard times when we ‘carry ackee go a Linstead market and not a quattie wud sell’.

“Because of Olive Lewin, our children have points of reference to treat with many situations: from learning to live in harmony with each other, which we glean on ‘Manuel Road’, to the discovery of our tendency to profile as we greet (each other),” she said.

Ms. Hanna added that by virtue of Dr. Lewin’s work, Jamaicans were given a vision of themselves that helped to shape their identity, and build Jamaica.

In his reflections, former Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Edward Seaga, said Dr. Lewin contributed significantly to documentation, preservation, and promotion of Jamaica’s rich folk culture, cultural traditions and identity, and music.

He added that she was always willing to extend her musical training and knowledge to assist in the development of other persons, particularly to children. Further, that through her establishment of the Jamaican Orchestra for Youth, many youngsters learned to play stringed instruments, such as the violin, which served to enhance their development.

Delivering a heart-warming eulogy, Dr. Lewin’s daughter, Major (Ret’d) Johanna Lewin, said her mother knew how to enjoy life and gave of herself, both locally and internationally.

Major Lewin said her mother’s work was her personal joy, and recounts her as a passionate and avid collector of music, even as she shared Jamaica indigenous culture with the rest of the world.

“She was talented, kind, caring brilliant, tireless, (and) possessed of a dry and wry sense of humour. She instilled dignity, respect for all, resourcefulness, discipline and was a perfectionist. Many have quoted her saying (to them): ‘you don’t practice until you get it right, you practice until you cannot get it wrong’,” she said.

Major Lewin said she learnt much about her county and fellow citizen, and people of other nations from her mother, and credits her with instilling an appreciation for the musical art form in her.

“I am grateful for her (enabling me) to be exposed to and having an appreciation for, not only classical music, but also contemporary. And, of course, being privileged and fortunate enough to have gained a wealth of knowledge about our country, our music and of our people,” she added.

Apart from her work as musicologist, author and Founder/Director of the Jamaican Folk Singers, Dr. Lewin will be remembered for her pioneering role in the public service. She served as Head of the Memory Bank Project; as well as Director of Arts and Culture, and Director of the Jamaica Institute of Folk Culture, among her various professional and philanthropic engagements.

She authored eight books, wrote numerous articles, and made countless recordings of folk music.

In recognition of her contribution to preserving Jamaica’s cultural heritage through music, the Institute of Jamaica (IoJ) honoured Dr. Lewin with its Centenary Medal in 1981; Silver Musgrave Medal in 1970; and the coveted Gold Musgrave Medal in 1987. She also received the Order of Distinction in 2001 for her life’s work.

Dr. Lewin was interred at the St. James Anglican Church, Hayes, Clarendon.

By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter

JIS Social