The persona, life and work of Leonie Forbes exemplify the true spirit of Jamaica — bold, beautiful, brimming with talent, enterprising, versatile and resilient. Her professional contributions have been cross-cutting and multidimensional involving ground breaking work in theatre, film and broadcasting as a performer, administrator and teacher, spanning more than six decades.
The name Leonie Forbes is synonymous with pioneering pursuits in her chosen fields. Her large and varied repertoire of accomplishments demonstrate her wide range of interests and abilities as well as her extensive exposure to life, its realities and nuances in Jamaica, the Caribbean and in many other locales around the world, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. Leonie was a proud Jamaican, a quintessential Caribbean artist and an unrepentant citizen of the world.
Through professional excellence she blazed illustrious thespian and broadcasting trails, scaling great heights with vigorous but graceful determination, and a remarkable sense of discipline and devotion to her crafts.
Leonie was a creator and pathfinder, but she also breathed life into the outstanding work of other artists, giving their materials greater depth, new perspectives and more textured meaning.
Her expansive artistic range and vast reservoir of talent were the dream of writers, film-makers, directors, producers and casting managers. Leonie's love for broadcasting, theatre and film was as profound as her artistic output was prolific and impactful, making her most deserving of the many local and international accolades she earned.
Her seminal role in the Jamaican Pantomime movement, and in revolutionising radio drama and broadcasting as a whole while she was director of radio production at the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation, tapped into the very pulse of the Jamaican nation and people. Her voice was distinctive and her diction perfect. She instantaneously and forever endeared herself to Jamaicans of all walks of life.
While she perfected her craft — and indeed, as an integral part of that pursuit of professional perfection — Leonie Forbes nurtured countless numbers of young professionals including journalists, broadcasters, actors and actresses among others. Her generosity of spirit and patient but firm tutelage helped to produce generations of stage, film and mass media practitioners who not only exude great technical competence, but who also embody an acute sense of purpose and an understanding of their role in the Jamaican nationhood as well as in the Caribbean and global community.
Leonie Forbes' passing robs us of a special human being, a national treasure and an artistic gem.
I extend heartfelt condolences to her immediate family and to her large extended family of colleagues, students, friends, fans and well-wishers.
May her soul rest in eternal peace. Walk good, Leonie.