From the earliest points in history, murals have been used around the world to tell a story or send a message, to express creativity and beautify, to educate and preserve cultural heritage. In Jamaica, it's no different. In fact, some like 27-year-old community arts specialist Sekani Daniel have dedicated their creative talents to making an indelible impact through murals.
Locally, Daniel has attracted a strong following for his breathtaking creations which include the Brown's Town mural project, a $17-million initiative to beautify St Ann in honour of outstanding personalities such as Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley and Deon Hemmings. One of his most recent creations is an eye-catching mural outside Nadine's Bar on Water Lane in the downtown Kingston Art District where he painted a reflection of Red Stripe's decades-long contributions to entertainment, sport, entrepreneurship and the connectivity of people through 'good vibes'.
For Daniel, his work is more than simply putting paint on walls. It's ingrained in his identity and a means through which he can express Jamaica's cultural pride in a lasting way.
"A lot of people will say that being an artist is a non-traditional career, but to me, it isn't. Murals have been around since ancient times and it's one of the biggest ways we have documented our history, even before the alphabet," Daniel shared.
"There is something about seeing a large public art piece that reflects the attributes of the community. It creates a cultural identity for visitors and for those who live there. It brings a sense of national pride and sustainable growth; it is not only beautification, but it also creates a better environment, hence creating a better Jamaica."
Growing up, Daniel always had a passion for art and was fortunate to be mentored by late Jamaican artist Baba Ireko Baker, his grandmother's spouse. In his early years, he practised screen printing, graphic art and other artistic expressions. He went on to attend the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, but only from 2012 to 2014, as financial difficulties forced him to cut his programme short.
He recalled, "In my younger days, I moved around a lot in Kingston due to financial difficulties. I lived in Maverley for the longest time and while there the community taught me a lot about resilience, hard work and endurance in many ways. It's one of the reasons I never deterred from becoming an artist, despite anything anyone said. I knew I had the ability to overcome my obstacles and create something outstanding through my art."
When he got the chance to visit Brazil, he was taken aback by the graffiti art seen in the cities and decided that he had to take the "power of public art" back to Jamaica.
Daniel has now been a muralist and graffiti artist for over three years. More and more, his talents are being recognised as witnessed through his collaboration with Red Stripe and Kingston Creative to help the leading beer brand commemorate Jamaica's 60th year of Independence.
"Red Stripe is a huge part of Jamaica's culture and I'm grateful to them and Kingston Creative for giving me the opportunity to showcase that. I think in order for creatives to thrive, we need more involvement from corporate entities. It's almost like a necessity, so I am happy that Red Stripe supports me and because of them I was able to create something that showcased national pride."
As he continues to utilise his talents, Daniel hopes that more creatives like himself will continue to be given opportunities to showcase their work and build their craft. He believes that future muralists, artists and creatives in general have what it takes to advance the cause of cultural preservation and expression. His advice to them, "Keep going in this industry because I have seen where my work has positively influenced the behaviour and mood of people. I love the reactions of people and I believe that through this way of beautifying our country, we can keep building towards a better Jamaica. Don't let anything deter you from doing what you're passionate about."
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