Real Mas’ mi seh!

Sunday, May 04, 2014

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Ebony G Patterson is one of Jamaica’s most exciting contemporary visual artists. Anyone on the streets of Kingston for Jamaica Carnival last Sunday who witnessed her latest art performance piece ‘Bling Memories’ can attest to that. As one watched the procession approach, led by the St Michael Steppers community marching band, who cloaked the rhythms of traditional Jamaican funeral songs in the sounds of reggae and dancehall drums and horns, a sea of highly decorated coffins emerged behind them, held high in the air. Fifty of them in total. Contrasting colours and patterns, ‘blinged’-out coffins with feathers, tassels and sequins, moving to the band music. A spectacle in the truest sense of the word. Cameras and smartphones came out in force, people curious as to what this part of the procession was about. No more pretty costumes, rum, soca music and winin’. Here came Death, adorned with the vibrancy of life, pulsating to live music. What was it all about?

Patterson’s work, ‘Invisible Presence: Bling Memories’ is a further exploration of cultural ritual in Jamaica, and is essentially about ‘Making the Invisible Visible’. Utilising a funerary practice from lower-income communities in today’s Jamaica, one influenced heavily by popular Dancehall culture, where those who have passed, who have been deemed ‘valueless’ by wider society, are glorified and celebrated in death. This project is an effort to include those marginalised by Jamaica Carnival’s predominantly middle and upper-income social groups. The intention is to make their presence known, to give voice to their plight, and to protest their invisibility.

Patterson strives to create a vehicle for remembrance for those that are voiceless and invisible to the State and wider society. “These victims are still invisible, because of their status and location,” Patterson states.

“I believe that, irrespective of place and location, we still have the right to all of these things,” the artist adds. “A bling funeral is a powerful declaration of presence, and that is what I have tried to bring to this public space at carnival time. This is ole Mas, not ‘pritty Mas” she says with a wry smile. I’d certainly agree. Ebony G Patterson has initiated ‘real Mas’ in Jamaica in the most inspiring way.

— Susanne Fredericks, curator,
HiQo Art Gallery

  

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