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Echoes of Jamaica in Europe

Island continues to reap goodwill from Independence celebrations

BY EILEEN FERGUSON Observer writer

Thursday, November 01, 2012

MUNICH, Germany — Despite distance from the island, the Jamaican flag was hoisted all across Europe and continues to stir pride weeks after celebrations of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of Independence reached a crescendo in August.

The Jamaican Embassy in Germany hosted or participated in a number of activities leading up to Independence Day, including the Jamaica 50 launch ceremony in Berlin where the island’s world-famous Blue Mountain Coffee and Jamaican rum lubricated the spirits.

Of note was the Sports Forum staged in collaboration with the Humboldt University at which Jamaica’s fabled female athlete Merlene Ottey was the special guest.

Guest Presenter was Judge Patrick Robinson, who spoke on the development of sports in Jamaica in a year in which the island sparkled at the London Olympics.

The Embassy also supported members of the Jamaican community in their participation in the Berlin Carnival of Cultures, which featured a Jamaica 50 float. Brand Jamaica was again on show when the Embassy held its Open House in the All Nations Festival. That culminated in a spectacular Independence Reception with invitees from the Jamaican community, members of the diplomatic and consular corps, the German government, the business sector, and various local institutions and organisations. Memorable speeches came from Jamaica’s Ambassador Joy Wheeler and Ambassador Bernard Graf von Waldersee, director general in the Foreign Ministry with responsibility for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The occasion was also used to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Jamaica and Germany. A big attraction, amid the buzz of Jamaica's performance at the Olympics, was the display of a signed running shoe used by Usain Bolt at the Berlin World Championship in 2009, provided courtesy of PUMA, Germany.

In Hamburg, Germany, honorary consul Jens Kelllinghuesen hosted a reception which was attended by several members of the Jamaican community, the Consular Corps and private sector representatives. Kellinghuesen was presented with a commemorative Jamaica 50 plaque in recognition of his 20 years of service to Jamaica in that capacity.

The honorary consul in Munich was the main sponsor of a "Jamaica Evening" for members of the Jamaican community and Friends of Jamaica in and around that city. It was a well-executed event spearheaded by Hillary Coley. A power-point presentation on Jamaica since 1962, prepared by Jacqui Deer, was a high point, supported by live musical performances, "Miss Lou" poetry by Thelma Mardersteig and Jamaican cuisine.

The Embassy also supported activities staged in the other countries under its jurisdiction, including Poland, Hungary and Serbia.

Poland will be especially remembered for the "Reggae University" segment staged as part of the annual Ostrada Reggae Festival, which seeks to educate patrons on diverse issues related to music and culture.

Presentations were made by Ambassador Wheeler on Jamaica-Poland relations, the road to Independence, Jamaica's achievements, challenges and the way forward. This was preceded by a short history of Jamaica by the honorary consul, Maria Dembowska, and also on tourism.

The young people were involved in the exciting final round of a quiz on Jamaica, which had started weeks before. The winner received a return trip for two to Jamaica courtesy of the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB). A Bob Marley documentary went down very well with Jamaican patties (made by a Jamaican residing in Poland).

The event had wide media coverage both on radio and television, bearing in mind that the Ostrada Festival is one of the biggest of its kind in Poland. The Jamaican delegation was later hosted at a dinner by the mayor of Ostrada where informal exchanges were held on strengthening Jamaica/Poland relations, inter alia, through culture and sports and, possibly, tourism.

It was touching to see the respect and love for Jamaica displayed throughout the city with Jamaican flags in shop windows and some homes, people decked in Jamaican Tshirts and proudly talking about Bob Marley and Usain Bolt.

There are several Polish reggae bands, some of which have been in existence since the 1970s and they shared the festival stage with several artistes from Jamaica and elsewhere. And Jamaican cuisine was featured in a popular local magazine, thanks to support from the honorary consul.

In Hungary, Honorary Consul Dr Andras Batizi hosted a Jamaican barbecue/garden party with attendance from the Consular Corps, the foreign ministry and representatives from universities in Budapest.

The Embassy also supported Honorary Consul in Serbia Mirko Miljus in hosting "Jamaican Days in Serbia", a two-day event showcasing various aspects of Jamaican culture, promoting Jamaican products and cuisine, including jerk chicken and Jamaican rum punch, the latter prepared by Jamaican students studying in Serbia. This, too, was accompanied by the screening of the film Bob Marley - A Legend - with the presence of its director, Esther Anderson, and a reggae concert with Ras Abraham and the Irie Vibes.

An interesting feature was a "vox pop" recorded on the streets of Belgrade regarding how Jamaica was perceived in Serbia which generated some positive and interesting responses. The Jamaican students also spoke of their stay in Belgrade, coping with the language, different culture, etc. This event, too attracted a lot of media attention and was a big success in making Jamaica visible in Serbia.

Jamaica continues to benefit from the goodwill generated by these Jamaica 50 events which will come to a close at the end of 2012.