Edna Manley – Celebrated Jamaican Artist

Photo: JIS Photographer

The Hon. Edna Manley, OM was a prominent Jamaican sculptor and the wife of Jamaican National Hero, the Right Excellent Norman Manley. Her work contributed to the development of the visual arts and culture in Jamaica.

Edna Manley was born Edna Swithenbank in Yorkshire, England in March 1900 to a Jamaican mother and British father. She was educated at St. Martina’s School of Art in London, England.  She moved to Jamaica when she married Norman Manley in 1922 and continued to pursue art.  Since 1924, Manley’s art has been exhibited in galleries in London, the United States and Jamaica.
Edna Manley produced the famed sculpture, “Negro Aroused” in 1935 – the first in a series creations in celebration of the working class. It is now a part of the art collection in the National Gallery of Jamaica.

Between 1935 and 1940, Manley produced “Mountain Girl”, “The Prophet”, and “Pocomania”. “Before Thought”, “The Forerunner”, “Before Truth”, and “Into the Mist” followed between 1941 and 1948. These are thought to represent her personal experiences with family relationships. From 1949 to 1974, Manley created “The Hills of Papine”, “The Mountains”, “Angel, the Grief of Mary”, and “Journey”.

Mrs. Manley taught art classes at and aided in the establishment of the Jamaica School of Art and Crafts (now the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts) in 1950. She was also a founding member of the National Gallery of Jamaica. She died in 1987.


For her invaluable contribution to art in Jamaica, this internationally acclaimed artist received:

  • Order of Merit, Jamaica’s fourth highest National Award (1980)
  • Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of West Indies (UWI), Mona, Jamaica (1977)
  • Institute of Jamaica‘s Gold Musgrave Medal (1943)
  • Institute of Jamaica‘s Silver Musgrave Medal (1929)


Edna and Norman Manley had two children – Michael Manley, former Prime Minister of Jamaica (1972-1980; 1989-1992) and Douglas Manley, who served as a Government Minister in the 1970s.

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