Jamaica’s ranks among the top ten most culturally influential countries in the world behind the likes of China and Brazil and certainly ahead of the United States of America. Our music, dance, Jamaican Art, and other social expressions are the primary drivers of the island’s culture, albeit without serious economic and social support from the government and other social interests at home.
I will venture to say that Jamaican paintings, sculptures, and pottery are amongst the best in the Caribbean. Our artistes work in a variety of styles, techniques, and in colors that are largely influenced by Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The pieces they produce are therefore truly unique and inspiring. In fact, if you look at the collections of some of the most renowned collectors you are bound to find works from Jamaican master artists and artisans such as Cecil Baugh, David Boxer, Kapo, Edna Manley, Albert Huie, Barrington Watson among many others.
It may come as a surprise to many that Art is in fact an export industry and that its global value was estimated at $50.1 billion in 2020 with online sales accounting for $12.6 billion. The USA accounts for 40.2 percent of those sales with China and Great Britain each accounting for 20 percent of those sales. Yet, while the country grapples with productivity issues, such as its inability to find competitive space for manufactured goods in the various export markets, I believe that it has failed to realize a largely untapped potential that exists within the creative industry. Here we have something which requires very little import content yet having the ability to contribute exponentially to the island’s earning capacity via marketing intellectual property.
From a business development standpoint, Jamaica’s proximity to the USA makes this a “low-hanging fruit” especially given its ever increasing Diaspora population. The task is in getting Jamaicans in the Diaspora to understand the importance in supporting Jamaican artists by purchasing their work.
Jamaica established the National Cultural Training Centre in 1975/76 which was later renamed the Edna Manley Centre for the Visual and Performing Arts with a vision of broadening the opportunities for artisans and craftsmen and to strengthen the island’s cultural output. To make all this work though, we need to support the work of the island’s creative people. We all need to buy the works of our local artists. Whether you start with original art pieces or giclee prints on canvas, it represents a start. Find an artist or group of artists whose work appeals to you. Talk with them where possible…go to their shows. Most will work out payment arrangements with you to help make it easier to acquire their work. As an artist myself, I certainly do.
For my part I am now offering Jamaican art that I have purchased directly from artists in Jamaica for resale in my online gallery. and in some cases, for my own personal collection. One such artist that I am currently working with is Richard Hall, whose work has seen significant demand growth. Other artists that I would suggest checking out are El Pedio Robinson, and Lancelot Fearon. I have also been representing an intuitive ceramist Over time I will be adding more Jamaica-based artists, especially artists just leaving the Edna Manley College. I am convinced that by purchasing the products and services of local artists, and artisans we all play a part in reflecting the authenticity of Jamaica’s culture and hence drive tourist interest to the island and our people worldwide. More families in Jamaica (with our support) will be better able to sustain themselves, while your patronage contributes to expanding the economic landscape in Jamaica.
About the Author
Richard Hugh Blackford is the host of a 2-hour music-driven internet show Sunday Scoops on yaawdmedia.com each Sunday from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm. The show focuses on Foundation Jamaican Music and takes its audience on a nostalgic but historical musical journey, peeling back the years of Jamaican musical development as the hosts explore the careers of Jamaican artistes. Sunday Scoops provides interviews with personalities, and discussions on Jamaican music and other topical issues. The show is co-hosted by noted DJ Garth Hendricks.