On Thursday, October 12, patrons attending the Design Week Ja affair at the Jamaican Railway Corporation were taken on an unexpected joyride. The event was coordinated by design maven Karen Booker, who once again brought her characteristic flair to the Design Week conversation, shining a spotlight on Jamaican creative potential.
The venue was brimming with character, steeped in heritage, a vestige of a Jamaica that was and still could be. Booker infused new life into the space and even incorporated two cars from a disused locomotive into her theme. One of the cars included an exhibition of items designed by Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (EMCVPA), as well as Booker's own sustainably made angel tree-toppers.
'Jamaican-made' was a clear theme for the evening and couldn't have been more relevant to the Design Week conversation. Along with EMCVPA, Booker also teamed up with a troupe of all-Jamaican Brands, including wooden pallets and crates manufacturing company Woodcats International, Smart Homes by CEAC and EdgeChem Paints, which all had educational booths set up at the venue.
Woodcats International was also a Design Week Ja partner this year, using the platform to amplify and champion its 'Waste to Revenue' programme, which includes a line of durable, practical furniture. Some of these furniture items were on display at the event.
Smart Homes by CEAC is also helping to advance the Jamaican sustainability movement by leaps and bounds with its development project that is reimagining the Jamaican home.
"We started our first development called 'Aqueduct of Vineyards' in Bushy Park, St Catherine. The homes are not just smart, technology-wise,[but] they are also environmentally friendly, equipped with a solar power system, rainwater harvesting system, EV charging outlets, smart locks, smart outlets, smart switches, and more. They also come ready for you to move in," Kelicia Williams, the company's marketing and business development officer, revealed.
With some 70 per cent of the homes already sold, the project's reception bodes well for Jamaica's future. At the event, patrons got an insider look at some of the technology that will be utilised inside the homes. The company will collaborate with Booker on the interior décor for the model homes.
Patrons had time to familiarise themselves with the various booths and offerings at the event while Everton Cunningham aka DJ Berg provided a lively backdrop. Refreshments to combat the sultry evening temperature were provided by Wisynco's Wata, Calico Jack Rum Punch and Kremi. The collaboration between Kremi and Booker is one that, soon, anyone will be able to enjoy. At the event, however, patrons got to be among the first to try the Booker-inspired 'Divalicious' ice cream.
Booker hosted the event alongside Joan McDonald, Miss Jamaica World 1978, coach, wellness ambassador and EMCVPA alumna. Both women highlighted the importance of continuing to elevate Jamaica's future in design through our support of the younger generations.
"What we wanted to do by inviting the students at Edna Manley is to bring the new artists and new visionaries on-board even before they graduate. They must be shown that there is a space for them and that they are part of a movement not just here in Jamaica but globally, as well," McDonald told the Jamaica Observer.
After a brief introduction from the MCs, it was time to board. Indeed, the train would be leaving the station!
The excitement in the air was palpable as patrons queued into the train cars, some still doubtful about whether or not the charming, but weathered, vehicle would actually move. Then, it did!
The journey wasn't far or long, but it was enough to spark joy. It was a simple motion that was deeply symbolic. The little train that could, did – a story of Jamaica in five words.
It's understandable then that the spectacle stopped motorists in their tracks and brought onlookers from outside their homes in the neighbourhood. Children ran, cheering along the platform. When the train eventually returned to the station, in true Jamaican fashion, there was a sonorous applause from passengers.
Patrons were each given a piece of memorabilia to mark the moment, and Jamaica's railway history, in the form of old ticket stubs.
The evening wasn't done, however, and the MCs kept things moving as patrons then received a passionate sermon on manifesting happiness from motivational speaker and theatre/performing arts specialist Fabian Thomas.
This talk was an important part of the night for Booker, as she explained that, along with making interior decoration more accessible for more Jamaicans, a significant part of her drive in her business has been to inspire happiness and highlight its importance in design.
"Our theme is always happiness. Happiness by design, happiness through design; you have to be happy in order to bring your best self. Your happiness also has to come through in your interior because your interior is how you feel," Booker said, pointing out that the influence between interior design/décor and the dweller goes both ways.
As the event went on, the night air got cooler, and patrons networked and mingled as they explored the booths and curated spaces at the venue. There was a quick and lively giveaway segment followed by Booker's own talk on incorporating happiness into interior décor, which wrapped up the evening's proceedings.