In this interview with Paint Jamaica “founder” Marianna Farag, we learn about one of the most popular projects of the Jamaican contemporary art scene. Music recording artists from J.Cole to Chronixx have come to visit 41 Fleet Street, the main site of the Paint Jamaica project.
Marianna describes herself as a “third-culture kid” that is in love with this amazing world we live in and that spends an unhealthy amount of time dreaming up and cooking up recipes in her free time.
Through our interview, Marianna explained the origins of the project and its purpose in the community it was made for. See more below:
What is Paint Jamaica?
Paint Jamaica is a social street art project. The idea was to transform the visual spaces of marginalized communities through the arts. Inner city communities have an exaggerated negative stigma attached to them and I wanted Paint Jamaica to uplift these places in a non-traditional way: through a grass-roots art project. It is entirely collaborative as we worked hand in hand between artists and the residents, taking the time to understand the people who lived in Parade Gardens (where 41 Fleet St is located).
The murals we painted are on walls that belong to the residents, so we made it a point to get to know them, connect with them and paint something they wanted to see. At the end of the day, these walls are theirs: not ours. Of course, making this a reality was only possible with the tremendous talent in Jamaica, which I find often underexposed. It was equally a way to showcase the bubbling creative energy that abounds in Jamaica. It was an honour to work with so many incredible artists.
When did the project start and who started it?
The idea was born in April 2014, but at the time it was just a thought. It didn’t really start until July 2014 where we kicked off two projects, each one lasting for about 10-15 days. Although I may have been the “founder” of Paint Jamaica in reality it only ended up being a democratic project where everyone was a “founder” and played a critical role. The list of names is endless: Matthew McCarthy, Taj Francis, Kokab Zohoori-Dossa, Djet Layne, EVERYONE AT LIFE YARD, Randy Richards, Jik Reuben-Pringle, Jordanne Brady, Patasha, Charl, Andrew, Kat, Naecia, Becky, Esther, Matthew Henry, Rico, Di-Andre, Reeni, Sunny, Mark… and I am sure I’m missing out other names to who I want to say THANK YOU.
Can you tell us about the some successes of the project?
I’d like to think that the project shed some light to the once marginalized Fleet St. I’d like to hope that it brought more pride to the residents. I know that the street gets lots of visitor traffic: be it from visitors locally and abroad or artistes shooting videos down there. People have now become more curious to penetrate that part of town, connect with the residents and realize that there are a ton of good people living there.
What is the core focus of the group. Is there a reason for this?
Everyone has a different role, we all bring our strengths to the table. The core focus is to change the way people perceive inner city communities and the way people appreciate and treat art.
Tell us about Paint Jamaica’s past challenges and your involvement to secure funds ?
The greatest challenge was really that we were grass roots and dependent on crowdfunding. The largest chunk of financing came from crowdfunding with non-monetary donations from the good people at Diamond Paints, BERGER, Island Grill, Purity, Tuff Gong, etc.
You have a passion for art in Jamaica. What are your personal beliefs on art in Jamaica?
I am an avid traveler and I’ve been to many countries, but the creative energy in Jamaica is quite unique. It is raw and vibrant. It is also “smart” in an interesting way: people are very crafty here. There’s also this incredible way of dealing with and treating colours in Jamaica: the way colours blend and mix and match makes me think that there is an innate inclination towards the visual arts. I am incessantly amazed by the talent that lies here but I do feel that the number of outlets for artists to expose their work is somewhat limited. I’d like to see more “out of the box” ways to showcase talent.
What is the next Jamaican project you are working on?
I’d like to use the internet & social media to build the largest online directory of Jamaican artists- as a project dubbed “Artists of Jamaica”. I’ve always loved how the internet helps expose talent to all four corners of the world in a non-discriminatory way: and I’d love to see the exposure of Jamaican creatives reach far out.
Do you feel there is a Jamaican Renaissance taking place right now?
If it’s in terms of art: not really. I would like to think that there has always been a lot of talent but now it’s time for the bubble to burst.
What do you meant by ‘time for the bubble to burst’?
There is a greater amount of art & talent than there are outlets and opportunities so it is time for the bubble to burst.
So you mean they need to be given the opportunity to spread out of the island?
In AND out! Yes very much so! There is a complete imbalance around the number of artists and outlets/opportunities available. I compare with places I’ve lived in like Paris & NYC where art constantly flourishes and is glorified. It is put on a pedestal. There is so much governmental and non governmental support to preserve and encourage the arts in those places, in both traditional & non traditional ways.
What do you want to tell the world about the energy you’re feeling out there?
I want people to get real curious about Jamaica: beyond the labels it gets tagged to. This is one of the most creative, vibrant, real & raw places out there. I’d also like to see more formal support & funding injected into the art scene. Art is critical & necessary for a culture to thrive. It needs to be respected, preserved and encouraged. It needs to continue to flourish in a contagious way.
What do you do to relax from a hard day?
I cook! My favourite place is in the kitchen or being at the market downtown exploring new ingredients and watching life go by.
What’s your favorite Jamaican food?
I’d have to choose an ingredient and it would be the incredible ackee!
The one thing you love about Jamaicans are… their resilience. I’ve been inspired countless times by people I’ve met in Jamaica!
Thanks for the interview. Any final words for the readers on Jamaicans.com?
This is one of the most magical places in the world. Amidst the organized chaos, there is beauty and serenity.
Images in this interview with Paint Jamaica, courtesy of Jeana Lindo and Marianna Farag.