‘Jamaica 50’ Exhibition: We are more than Rum, Roti and Rasta
August 6th commemorates the day Jamaica won its independence. However, this August there is an even greater furore as the island readies itself for its 50th birthday. All around the world, many Jamaicans are in preparation to showcase the many achievements the nation has. None more so obvious than the ‘Jamaica 50’ exhibition opening at the Community Gallery at Birmingham Museums which started on the 26th May and is due to end on the 30th September 2012.
Created and developed by the Kingsway Project, 'Jamaica 50' is a chance for non-Jamaicans as well as Jamaicans to enjoy a sample of the rich heritage of Jamaica’s culture, both past and present. Annette Robinson, an OBV Graduate who manages the project, gave OBV an exclusive interview about the event which aims to celebrate the exploits of Jamaican personalities such as Mary Seacole; a bastion in racial and woman’s rights and the Jamaican Olympic team containing the likes of 100 and 200 metres world record holder, Usain Bolt. Their arrival for the London 2012 games coincides with the event. The intention in celebrating two markedly different worlds is to project a different sense of Jamaica than the stereotypical reggae blazing, rum drinking Rastafarian outlook.
Robinson alluded to this when stating,
“It shows there is a lot more to Jamaica than just violence, food and music. The exhibition also features vibrant displays about Jamaica’s history, its national symbols and heroes and iconic Jamaican people from the past and present."
Whilst a celebration of Jamaica’s achievements; the exhibition also has greater purposes for the community. ‘Jamaica 50’ is an opportunity which allows Jamaicans in the UK an opportunity to revel in the past by exploring the many experiences that first generation settlers had though first-hand anecdotes. These anecdotes will involve interviews conducted by young people, giving them a unique education and insight into the journeys the settlers had, but also the general feeling of Jamaican’s during Independence Day in 1962.
Speaking about the inter-generational aspect of the exhibition, Robinson said,
“The exhibition is important because it gives young people an opportunity to ask questions about the past and explain how they see their community and life in general. Many young people have taken for granted things like washing machines, central heating, microwaves etc. They thought they always existed. Talking to the seniors made them see what life was like without these modern appliances and to have a greater appreciation for seniors. The stories from the seniors have encouraged young people to continue the good work of full integration into British society that the seniors started.”
Robinson also emphasized the importance of the exhibition as a learning tool for Jamaicans and non-Jamaicans alike.
“Everyone in the community can benefit from learning about the history of the country, but it is also a tool for communication, it encourages inter-generational work as seniors and young people reflect on their own culture and identify the things that make their culture unique, but also to understand and see there is a shared experience in migration."
Robinson then explained in particular how it would impact on non-Jamaicans.
“They will learn that settlement can be used to explore the experiences of people in history. Britain is a multicultural society, so learning about other ethnic groups is beneficial for all in the community, who will come into contact with individuals and communities that are different from to them.”
It is clear to see that the ‘Jamaica 50’ celebrations have the purpose of including anyone who is interested, regardless of ethnicity and age - it is a chance to be enlightened into the history and culture of the great nation that is Jamaica.
The 'Jamaica50' exhbition is from 26 May 2012 to 30 Sep 2012 at the Birmingham Museum Gallery, Chamberlain Square, Birmingham, B3 3DH. Admission is free.