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Reggae on show in Miami

Friday, December 15, 2017

There was a little piece of Jamaica at last week's Art Basel exhibition at the Miami Convention Center in South Florida. The country's pop culture made its debut with the 'Let There Be Reggae' exhibition.

Six Jamaicans — photographers Roy Sweetland and David Muir, New York dance promoters Irish and Chin, author Maxine Walters and artist Robin Clare — participated in the December 7-10 exhibition.

“There was definitely a strong presence for Let There Be Reggae1 the attendance was really good,” said Garfield “Chin” Bourne. “There was a constant flow of people throughout the day. People were captivated by the exhibits in the room as they gave persons a time warp and appreciation of the culture that was showcased.”

Irish and Chin's 'booth' showcased the history of the Jamaican sound system and dancehall which originated in Kingston in the late 1940s. Their pieces included dance posters, dub plates and tidbits on legends such as engineer Osbourne “King Tubbys” Ruddock.

A highlight for Bourne was American rapper Swiss Beats stopping by to discuss the influence Jamaican sound systems have on hip hop culture.

Sweetland, a former technician at the Jamaica Telephone Company, has covered the reggae/dancehall scene for over 40 years. Fifty of his photographs were shown at Let There Be Reggae, including shots of Frankie Paul and Josey Wales early in their careers at Channel One Studio; as well as controversial deejay Vybz Kartel.

He also displayed a cut-out of Bob Marley's Gibson guitar which was presented to the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles in 2011.

“It was great; this was the first time reggae was represented in that space and it's a great thing to see the music portrayed that way,” Sweetland said. “For me, it was a remarkable feeling.”

The Art Basel fair is shown annually in Basel, Switzerland; Hong Kong and Miami. It was the 16th time the event was held in Miami and hosted 268 galleries from 32 countries.

— Howard Campbell