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Religion and Spirituality in Jamaican Art at the National Gallery of Jamaica

Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality at the National Gallery of Jamaica

Jamaica is known for being a country in touch with the spirit, whether it be that which is poured from a bottle, or which comes fourth from the Bible and other sacred texts. Through their second exhibition in the Explorations series, the National Gallery of Jamaica provides a journey into religion in Jamaican art, dubbed Religion and Spirituality.

Gabriella Reno and Samuele Vivian engage the audience at the NGJThe smooth musical stylistics of vocalist Gabriella Reno and guitarist Samuele Vivian provided a melodic background for the January edition of Last Sundays which welcomed visitors to take free tours of the gallery including the Religion and Spirituality exhibition.

The exhibition opened during the Last Sundays event for January and features works by  Osmond Watson, Everald Brown, Carl Abrahams, Karl Parboosingh, Mallica ‘Kapo’ Reynolds, Norma Rodney-Harrack and Edna Manley among others. 

An impressive audience turns out for Last Sundays the January editionThe exhibition certainly rests on the side of the conservative, despite the potentially contentious subject matter, yet even so, it’s an interesting lens through which to look at some of the island’s best known works of art, especially as some of the pieces may not often be contextualized as religious, even though they speak to the influence of religion on the development of the country. So the segment on ‘Spiritual Warriors’ includes Michael Thompson’s reinterpretation of Bogle as well as Renee Cox’s The Red Coat a contemporary interpretation of Nanny. 

Taino Heritage by Norma Rodney-HarrackAnother intriguing element falls under In Our Own Image which interrogates white colonial representations and how they have been challenged by Jamaican artists. This segment includes Omari Ra’s ‘Jesus Christ’ as well as Osmond Watson’s dreadlocked Jesus in ‘Jah Lives’. Ebony G Patterson’s ‘The Real Big Man’ which employs the iconography of traditional religious art in her interrogation of contemporary Jamaican masculinity is also included in this gallery. 

The pieces are also housed under the themes A Chapter A Day, Ancestral Memories (which notably includes references to Taino culture), Prayer and Ritual, and Death and Life Beyond.

Interestingly, all the pieces in Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality are in the NGJ’s collection. The Last Sundays January edition took place on Sunday, January 26, 2014, providing another lively Sunday morning, in what has easily been one of the most engaging intiatives explored by the Gallery.