'Keane' eye on women's issues

'Keane' eye on women's issues

Observer senior reporter

Thursday, January 14, 2021

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This article is part of a series presented by the Jamaica Observer highlighting the 10 murals which form an installation of public art along Water Lane in downtown Kingston. The initiative is part of the Paint the City project being curated by non-profit arts organisation Kingston Creative.

Amidst the fun and gaiety of the murals along Water Lane in downtown Kingston, artist Errol Keane has chosen to depict a more sombre reality with the hope of sparking a conversation regarding the horrors of abuse, mental, physical and sexual, faced by women in the society and its long-lasting effects.

His work, titled Daughters of Oshun, represents a continuation of work by the artist on the topic of the sexualisation of young women. Given the public nature of the art installation facilitated by Kingston Creative, Keane saw this as a prime spot to facilitate and continue the conversation which he said is often shrouded in a culture of silence.

“It's a conversation that needs to be had. So many people go through life not being cognisant of the damage they have caused or are causing by their action so something had to be said. Even with this COVID-19 pandemic, and schools being closed, a lot of children are stuck at home and cannot escape the trauma, so we have to start talking and save these lives,” Keane told the Jamaica Observer.

Like most of the other muralists, Keane responded to Kingston Creative's open call for submissions. Having done other works under this theme, Daughters of Oshun was his first and last idea. He had no reservation in pitching this heavy topic. That was in 2019. He shared that he had actually forgotten about the project by the time he was finally called and informed that he had been successful, but he was nevertheless pleased that he would have an opportunity to showcase the work and particularly the story behind it.

“The whole idea came about when I participated in the Black Mango Arts Residency Programme. Through development and research I was exposed to the stories of women. This was the genesis of my interest in the area and I started using my art to shine a light on their plight.

“Public art offers a wide space to put certain messages out there for wider consumption. Given the space I was given [on Water Lane] I realised it was not for one figure so I expanded my concept to include multiple women, not one woman, or one type, or age, as most if not all women have experienced some type of abuse, or at least know someone who has,” Keane continued.

Daughters of Oshun took Keane and his team a total of three weeks to complete. He noted that because of the location of the mural, for most of the day the sun was oppressive, making it difficult to work at times – a possible metaphor for the pain suffered by the women about whose pain he was depicting.

The work features a number of women in various poses. An interesting feature of this mural is the use of Braille to share the message with an even wider audience: the visually impaired.

Keane, who is a graduate of the school of art at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, where he majored in visual communication and illustration, noted that the response to his work has been mixed and skewed interestingly along gender lines.

“Males initially see the women depicted as go-go dancers. But once they see the messaging they realise what it is. The majority of females immediately visualise the link to trauma of their own or a friend and relate to the mural on a deep, emotional level. I hope people who walk by along Water Lane will reflect on what they are doing about the situation and whether or not they too are complicit in the issue and their action is affecting the psyche of so many women. When you see that standing figure in the mural staring, almost glaring at you, she is hoping that you internalise the hurt and do something to help,” said Keane.

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