While Jamaican and Japan are both islands, their people are as different from each other as the native languages they speak. Yet through these differences, two people have the power to create a story that makes society reflect on who we are rather than what we are. This is precisely what happened for award-winning artist and Jamaican native Marvin Thompson. He met and married Japanese-born Reika Inoue through a shared love for Jamaica. Naturally, a narrative emerged about multi-culturalism that excited art lovers in Japan. Since 2018, the Saint Catherine local has been exhibiting artwork depicting the beauty of biracial children, family and Jamaican landscapes. Winning awards is nothing new for the Osaka-based artist whose works have been displayed around Jamaica and Japan.
“My first international award was in Japan at the 2019 sixth memorial of Aoki Shigeru Art Biennial.” Since five years old, the father of three has won people over with a paintbrush and untainted imagination. He eventually became an art teacher at Jamaica College. On the other side of the world, a curious student was studying the history of globalisation. She watched a documentary called Life and Debt about Jamaica and was so impacted by it that she focused her thesis on Jamaica. Marvin and she became friends through a local college she attended as an international student in Jamaica. Under Marvin’s tutelage, Reika has also become an award-winning artist. For the purpose-driven artists, Jamaica inspires them. Using their business, Nala Creative Studio, Marvin showcases his artwork.
“Jamaica is one of the most beautiful landscapes. Our culture is very expressive. I like to represent it through art. I want to showcase politics, the beauty of the landscape, the beauty of the people,” Thompson says. In contrast, Japanese art is safe and unpolitical for the most part. One of his artworks is entitled You-man. It is a play on the word human and was inspired by the colours of the Jamaican flag. The eyes and lips were emphasised. “This piece is saying I am the face of Jamaica. People are the face of Jamaica,” he says, cupping his face in his hands. Another award-winning piece is Joyous Woman of Children.
The artwork won first place at a competition in the harbour city of Fukuoka. “The model was my daughter in this piece with a Jamaican woman, Joanna.” He witnessed his wife’s transition into motherhood and wanted to express that process as a goddess with a demi-god. He reminds us that we can all see motherhood through the eyes of appreciation. The piece also reflects biracial children who aren’t well-received in Japan. In a society where black faces are not prevalent, children need representation to understand that different is acceptable, even beautiful, and most assuredly accepted.
With the pandemic shifting art exhibitions online, the Thompsons pivoted into various artistic expressions, including bodypainting and aquascape, as well as Jamaican and Japanese fusion cooking. In Jamaica, there is a saying, “The bigger the fish, the more butter it requires.” Indeed, bigger assignments take greater effort. This couple has taken on a big assignment and is awakening their society to a new way of thinking about people one brushstroke at a time.
To find out more about Marvin and Reika Thompson, please visit their Instagram account @nalacreativestudio