Sabina mural should boost COVID-19 recovery plan — GrangeSunday, April 18, 2021
BY BALFORD HENRY
MINISTER of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports Olivia “Babsy” Grange believes that her ministry's latest venture, creating a mural on the outside wall of Sabina Park in Kingston, will add to Jamaica's post-coronavirus pandemic recovery.
“It's only because of the pandemic why the cruise ships have stopped coming, but once they start cruising again you can imagine the vibrancy and the excitement that what is happening here today will create for our visitors,” she said at a preview of the mural included in her ministry's Celebration project at Sabina Park, South Camp Road last Friday.
The colourful mural is planned to generate renewed interest in the park which was once among the main venues for West Indies cricket but has lost much of its glamour and magnetism in recent years.
The walls surrounding the world-famous cricket venue situated on South Camp Road in Kingston were reliably protective of its inner beauty, including prized condos offering an overhead view of the lush green field and sometimes demonic pitch which have become relics of an emotional history dating back to the 19th century.
Originally part of a 30-acre pen (urban residence and adjoining land owned by a wealthy shopkeeper in colonial Jamaica) known as Sabina Park Pen with a great house named Rosemount, it was sold to the Kingston Cricket Club (KCC) in 1890, a decade after KCC started paying an annual fee for usage.
Sabina Park became a Test cricket ground in 1930 when it hosted the visiting MCC team for the fourth and final Test in the West Indies' first ever home series. It can also be recalled as the venue where Garfield Sobers scored his monumental world Test record cricket innings of 365 not out against Pakistan.
With a history like that it is not surprising that Jamaica's culture and sport minister saw the chance to grasp the opportunity to help make it into a major tourism attraction to benefit Government plans to make the city tourism friendly enough to help the post-COVID-19 economic recovery efforts, while aiding the resurgence of the venue and the game of cricket.
Grange said that the current mural project, which is being supported by the Embassy of Mexico in Kingston, will not only attract tourists to the developing tourism substructure of urban Kingston and St Andrew, but Jamaicans as well who are bound to find it instructive that the venue was once owned by a defiant “free woman of colour”, Isabella Hall, between 1809 and 1822, which was prior to emancipation.
“There will be tours to Sabina Park, and murals depicting the life of the surrounding communities as well as some of the greats who made history while playing cricket here,” she noted.
Actually, the offer of tours to visitors is not entirely new, as local and tourism interests have added Sabina Park to the list of options open to visitors who want to see more than sea, sand and artefacts. But, the minister believes that much more could be done to make the trip more meaningful.
The minister pointed out that the mural project is timely, as it coincides with work the Government has been undertaking to fulfill its obligations as a signatory to UNESCO's 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
She said that at the same time the 'Paint Up Yuh Creative Space' project has facilitated not only the transfer of skills among regional muralists, but it has also fostered regional networking and the free movement of artists.
Grange pointed out that her ministry commissioned Jamaica's largest mural on the wall of the historic cricket venue after discussing it with Mexico's Ambassador Juan Gonzalez Mijares, who saw it as a product of regional collaboration.
Gonzalez Mijares took on the task of bringing back to Jamaica acclaimed Mexican muralist Irving Cano Gomes to work with Jamaican creatives, including Ricardo “Majestic” Hines, Brighton Brown and Tavian Brooks, on the project.
The mural features the work of Cano Gomes, who was born on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, Mexico, and whose heritage is that of the Zapotecs, an indigenous people of Mexico concentrated in the southern state of Oaxaca.
He was brought to Jamaica for about a year by the ambassador, who felt that street art was the perfect manifestation of the island's culture as a lasting project.
“At that time we worked with the mayor of Kingston on a mural on Temple Lane which was depicting the music, and I think it worked very well. So this time the minister said that she would like a mural to be done at Sabina Park,” Gonzalez Mijares said.
“When she mentioned Sabina Park I knew it had to do with cricket because I know a bit about cricket, except for the [bowlers'] overs. But, I think that it is a beautiful wall. Everybody loves Sabina Park and we are very close to it,” he added.
Titled Celebration!, it currently spans 38 metres by four metres (125 feet by 13 feet) and is part of the ministry's ongoing Paint Up Yuh Creative Space project which has already produced murals in downtown Kingston (Temple Lane), Port Royal and at Norman Manley International Airport.
The initiative was launched in 2019 and used art as a focal point to attract local and foreign visitors to communities within the creative areas of Kingston. It also aims at fostering the creation of satellite enterprises for community tourism projects and economic-generating activities, while beautifying and rejuvenating the capital city.
“We are going to paint up the creative spaces right across Jamaica, and we have started in Kingston,” said Grange, noting that the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) has also been involved with the activities, including the murals at Temple Lane in downtown Kingston and Port Royal.
“I am really happy today for this. It took a lot of work and it took a great team, and I just want to commend my team at the ministry as well as all our partners who have made this a reality,” Grange told the Jamaica Observer after the event.
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