Rhea Dillon on 'Nonbody Nonthing No Thing', her debut solo exhibition

“Being Black British is part of my ontic and ontology so it’s always present in my work because it is me.” Photography by Theo Christelis, via V.O Curations

For AnOther, Sagal Mohammed spoke to Rhea Dillon about her first solo exhibition, entitled Nonbody Nonthing No Thing. The Black British-Jamaican artist, writer and poet uses a variety of media to interpret what she calls the “‘rules of representation’ as a device to undermine contemporary Western culture” and “‘humane afrofuturism’ as a practice of bringing forward the humane and equality-led perspectives on how we visualise Black bodies”.

Nonbody Nonthing No Thing is one of those works, showing abstractions of Blackness in the form of 7 paintings and sculptures. The above image depicts “landing” and how the Diasporic experience for Black Africans and Caribbeans meant leaving the known and landing in the unknown. That fragmented journey, which doesn’t stop when the plane touches down or the ship anchors, is captured brilliantly in this work.

Nonbody Nonthing No Thing is at VO Curations in London from 15th Oct–11th Nov 2021 so get there if you can.

Flying fish doing what they do best

Flying Fish Picked Off From Above And Below | The Hunt | BBC Earth

Although I’ve eaten flying fish before, I’d never actually seen them “fly” until recently (easily accessible to me but not something I’ve ever gone out of my way to find). The above video, filmed for BBC Earth, shows a glide of flying fish soaring through the air. Truly majestic.

They’re also a significant part of Bajan culture (I ate them in Barbados while visiting my dad’s family):

Many aspects of Barbadian culture center (sic) around the flying fish; it is depicted on coins, as sculptures in fountains, in artwork, and as part of the official logo of the Barbados Tourism Authority. Additionally, the Barbadian coat of arms features a pelican and dolphinfish on either side of the shield, but the dolphinfish resembles a flying fish. Furthermore, actual artistic renditions and holograms of the flying fish are also present within the Barbadian passport.

Aimé Césaire and his Discourse on Colonialism

Tim Keane wrote about Black Caribbean poet Aimé Césaire who disseminated the brutality of colonialism in his work:

Since Césaire’s death in 2008 at age 94, as democracies devolve into autocracies and wealthy nations sidestep poorer ones on our endangered planet, Discourse on Colonialism remains prescient about the barbarity that informs civilization. In literary terms, its enduring relevance tends to overshadow Césaire’s standing as the most influential Modernist poet in Caribbean literature, an imaginative writer who molded the French language to make a personal poetry characterized by hypnotic physicality, ritualized anguish, and metaphorical exorcisms.

About Aimé Césaire

Césaire was born in Basse-Pointe, Martinique, in 1913. After moving to the capital, Fort-de-France, to attend the only secondary school on the island, he moved to Paris to attend the Lycée Louis-le-Grand on a scholarship. There, he passed the entrance exam for the École Normale Supérieure, co-created a literary review called L’Étudiant noir (The Black Student) and helped to start the Négritude movement.

Reading list

(contains Bookshop affiliate links)

La Soufrière's eruption: before and after photos

The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission captured the above images of La Soufrière before and after its eruption on 9th April.

La Soufrière is an active stratovolcano on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. A series of explosive events began in April 2021, forming a plume of volcanic ash reaching 8 km in height, and generating pyroclastic flows down the volcano’s south and southwest flanks.

According to the BBC, La Soufriere had been inactive for decades before it started erupting last week. No reported injuries but thousands have fled their homes.

(via SciTechDaily)

Bubble wrap portraits by Darian Mederos

Darian Mederos is a Cuban-born artist based in Nashville. He’s best known for his photorealist portraits that demonstrate his subjects’ emotions. For his ‘Obscura Series’, he used painted portraits to look like they have bubble wrap over them.

The bubble wrap reflects light and distorts the underlying image, it is only at a distance that the works come into focus. When viewed up close the faces dissolve into bold strokes of flesh tones and painted light. The artist challenges the viewer with the “Obscura Series” in asking us to understand the core of human identity, from a respectful distance.

For more, check out Mederos’ work on Instagram.

Equiano is the world’s first African-Caribbean rum

Equiano rum

I wrote about the very brief history of rum a few months ago and now there’s a new chapter to add to the story.

Equiano blends the flavours of Barbados and Mauritius to create the world’s first African-Caribbean rum. It comes courtesy of global rum ambassador Ian Burrell and Foursquare Distillery’s master distiller and blender Richard Seale.

Equiano Rum is the delicious result of a collaboration between two fabulous distilleries, marrying liquid from Barbados’ Foursquare and Gray’s Distillery of Mauritius. The rum from Foursquare is aged in American white oak, while the liquid from Gray’s is aged in French limousin oak and Cognac casks. It’s then married in ex-bourbon casks and bottled at Foursquare, weighing in at 43% ABV. Two hemispheres meet in one bottle, and it’s rather marvellous.

Grab a bottle of Equiano from Master of Malt and read more about the creators in MoM’s blog post from last February.

And, of course, drink responsibly. And Happy Valentine’s Day!

Alcohol-related: The mint julep and its Black history, the whiskey glass from Blade Runner, and a Star Wars glass stormtrooper decanter.

The Black Caribbeans of the Harlem Renaissance

claude mckay

As the son of a Black Jamaican woman and Black Bajan man and an admirer of the Harlem Renaissance, I was intrigued by this JSTOR article by Matthew Wills.

Black Caribbeans in the Harlem Renaissance examined some of the Black Caribbeans that had an influence on the 1920s movement including:

  • Claude McKay (Jamaica)
  • Eric Waldron (British Guiana; raised in Barbados)
  • Arturo Schomburg (Puerto Rico)
  • Wilfred A. Domingo (Jamaica)
  • Marcus Garvey (Jamaica)

Domingo himself argued, “West Indians were better prepared to challenge racial barriers in the United States” because they came from countries in which “Blacks had experienced no legalized segregation and limitations upon opportunity.” The brutality of American racism, so very different from that of imperial Britain and France, shocked them into action. In the 1920s, of course, “the great colonial empires were alive and well, but the intellectual seeds were already being sown for their eventual dismantling.”

Almost a quarter of Harlem’s Black population was foreign-born in the 1920s. They included, most famously, Marcus and Amy Jacques Garvey. Garveyism, with its “ideological mixture of Black pride, diaspora consciousness, and defiance of white racism” was foundational to the growth of Black nationalism in the United States, the Caribbean, and the world.

Of course, this only covers the Black Caribbean men. There were plenty of influential Black Caribbean women in the Harlem Renaissance such as:

  • Hermina Huiswoud (Guyana)
  • Amy Jacques Garvey (Jamaica)
  • Maymie de Mena (Martinican and French Guianan grandparents)

“This freedom from spiritual inertia characterizes the women no less than the men, for it is largely through them that the occupational field has been broadened for colored women in New York. By their determination, sometimes reinforced by a dexterous use of their hatpins, these women have made it possible for members of their race to enter the needle trades freely.”

Wilfred A. Domingo, Gift of the Black Tropics

Recommended reading

'Lovers Rock' named film of the year by Sight & Sound

Lovers Rock, a story set in the 80s about young love at a party in West London, won Sight & Sound’s film of the year award this week.

In an interview with BBC News, McQueen expressed his belief of a brighter future for Black and Brown people in film and TV:

“To be honest with you, black and brown-skinned people have not been really welcomed into the film and television community. But now things are sort of changing things and people are realising that things need to be sorted and things need to be changed and there’s opportunities there – we’ve just got to take them when we get them.”

Lovers Rock received universal acclaim, from critics and on social media. Odie Henderson of rogerebert.com said:

Despite its brief 68-minute runtime, “Lovers Rock” is loaded with tactile, sensuous storytelling. The cinematography by Shabier Kirchner and McQueen’s direction make the well-choreographed dance sequences into amazing mini-movies; you’ll find yourself asking “where the hell is the camera?”

And Sonia Saraiya of Vanity Fair:

Lovers Rock is a love letter to the joy of being alive, and young, and at least momentarily, free.

You can watch Lovers Rock on iPlayer and if you want to listen to the music from the film, Slate made a playlist of the tracks.

Kehinde Wiley – The World Stage: Jamaica

Photos of Kehinde Wiley's The World Stage: Jamaica exhibition

Back in 2013, African American artist Kehinde Wiley presented his first ever UK solo exhibition, entitled “The World Stage: Jamaica”. Stephen Friedman Gallery hosted the exhibition with Frieze London and it featured Jamaican men and women emulating poses from 17th and 18th Century British portraits. The concept demonstrated the relationship between Jamaica’s citizens and the island’s former colonialists with Wiley’s trademark “naturalistic” style.

Wiley embellishes his paintings with intricate, ornate backgrounds that contradict the sombre posturing of the subjects and allude to the bold styles of urban fashion. Pieces of these symbolic patterns overlay and entwine the figure, both harmoniously fusing and creating opposition between the two contrasting elements that form the work. In previous series, this decoration has been inspired by a fusion of period styles, ranging from Islamic architecture to Dutch wax printed textile and French Rococo design. In this new body of work, lavish patterning informed by the British textile designer William Morris surrounds the figures.

via Kehinde Wiley’s press release for the exhibition

About Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley was born in 1977 in Los Angeles to a Nigerian father and an African American mother. His mother supported his art and, after enrolling in after-school art classes, he went to art school in Saint Petersburg, Russia, at the age of 12.

After spending time with his father in Nigeria, he returned to the US and earned his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and his MFA from Yale University, School of Art. He has since presented 13 solo exhibitions, won countless awards, and worked with the likes of Puma and Givenchy.

In an accompanying video, Wiley discusses his initial artistic inspirations and how traveling around the world opened his outlook. For the Jamaica exhibition, he explored British art museums for inspiration and commented on portraiture in British colonial history:

“[…] in particular, I saw the works that had a direct relationship to the Caribbean. I love the history of art, I love looking at the beautiful images but I also recognise that there is something quite sinister about their past. High portrait making points back to the history of art and in that history, art has always been in a cosy relationship with the state and with the church.”

Kehinde Wiley

Stream the 7-minute video below. And Happy Independence Day, Jamaica!

Check out some of the exhibition below and head to the official Stephen Friedman Gallery page for the rest.

A very brief history of Jamaican rum

Wray & Nephew's, one of the most famous Jamaican rum brands on the planet

Of all the things my mum asked me to buy from the West Indian shop down the road when I was a kid, Jamaican rum wasn’t one of them (for multiple reasons – age being the main one). And while my parents never drank it, my mum still used it in fruit cakes (if you know, you know). Rum is a significant part of Jamaican culture and in this article, I’ll give a very brief history of the alcoholic beverage.

What is rum?

Let’s get this one out of the way. Rum is a liquor made from fermented molasses or sugarcane juice which is then distilled. You either get a clear liquid, where the rum is filtered and bottled straight away, or a dark liquid which is aged in charred oak or wooden casks (known as puncheons) before filtering and bottling.

Jamaican rum’s history is enslaved peoples’ history

Rum was introduced to Jamaica in 1494 by Christopher Columbus (but rum’s history goes even further back, to the 7th century India). By 1655, when Jamaica was under British rule, the colonialists brought the concept of rum-making and distilling over from another of their colonies, Barbados. Enslaved people were forced to work on plantations and their labour made rum become an even more popular drink.

Rum then became a strong form of currency, used in triangle trades with enslaved people. But when slavery was abolished in the 1800s, the rum industry suffered as enslaved people’s labour ran its production. In 1893, there were about 148 rum distilleries in Jamaica. Now, only 6 remain (the last three with an asterisk operate under National Rums of Jamaica):

  • Hampden Estate
  • Appleton Estate
  • Worthy Park Estate
  • Long Pond Distillery*
  • Clarendon Distillery*
  • Innswood Distillers Limited*

But the quantity and quality of rum are improved and without the enslaved people. Jamaican rum is sold in over 70 countries around the world.

Hampden Estate Rum

Hampden Estate Rum makes pure single rums, using wild fermentation and no added sugar. Its history goes back to 1753 when it operated as a sugar plantation under the ownership of Mr. Archibald Stirling. The estate changed hands in 1827 and during World War I, Hampden built the Hampden Wharf in Falmouth for rum and sugar shipments. Today, the wharf is a tourist destination and an entry port for some of the largest cruise ships in the world.

Appleton Estate

Appleton began rum production 4 years earlier than Hampton. Nowadays, Appleton makes its world famous Appleton Rum and New Yarmouth Estate thanks to the incredible work of master blender Joy Spence, who became the first female spirits master blender ever in 1997. In 1978, she graduated from Loughborough University with a Masters’ degree in Analytical Chemistry.

Worthy Park Estate

The estate was established in 1670 and its started making rum in 1741, 7 years before Appleton (who claim to have the oldest rum in Jamaica). Today, Worthy Park mixes the classic with the modern, having built a cutting edge distillery in 2005, but still opting to distill its rums in a traditional Jamaican Pot for a “heavy bodied rum full of esters and congeners”.

National Rums of Jamaica

National Rums of Jamaica owns three distilleries:

  • Long Pond Distillery
  • Clarendon Distillery
  • Innswood Distillers Limited

The limited company is a joint partnership between the Jamaican government, Demerara Distillers Limited from Guyana and Maison Ferrand, based in France. Between the three distilleries, National Rums of Jamaica processes over 13 million litres of rum a year, enough to fill 5 Olympic-sized swimming pool and have enough left over for a really good party.

List of famous Jamaican rum brands

In short, there are a lot and I’ll undoubtedly miss some (in which case let me know) and some of them are made at the same distilleries or not made in Jamaica but are classed as Jamaican rums (eg. Captain Morgan). Here are some of the most well known:

  • Wray & Nephew
  • Appleton Estate
  • Worthy Park
  • Hampden Estate
  • Captain Morgan
  • Koko Kanu
  • Lambs
  • Appleton
  • Cut
  • Myers
  • Blackwell
  • Jah45
  • Coruba
  • Monymusk

Jamaican rum cocktails

Don’t let anyone tell you Jamaican rum punch is the only cocktail you can make out of the island drink. There’s a history to consider so here are a few along with their stories.

Grog

The British Navy swapped brandy for Jamaican rum during the Anglo-Spanish War as their drink ration of choice. But it caused sailors to be even more despicable than they already were (they were from the British Navy after all). So in 1740, Vice Admiral Edward “Old Grog” Vernon issued a Captain’s Order that stated that all rum provisions had to be mixed with water, although the addition of “sugar and limes” was allowed. The new drink was known as Grog in his honour.

Nowadays, grog cocktails are still popular amongst seaborne types but also a mainstay at tiki bars.

Mai Tai

There’s a dispute over who invented this Polynesian-themed cocktail.

Victor J. Bergeron claimed it as his own in 1944 in Oakland, California. But Donn Beach said it was based on his Q.B. Cooler cocktail created 11 years earlier. The tastes are different but regardless, why is a drink, allegedly named after the Tahitian word for “good” or “excellence” (maita’i), made with Jamaican rum? Well, that’s what Victor Bergeron used in his recipes and subsequent recipes were modelled on his concoction (along with Martinique rum).

The official International Bartenders Association (IBA) specified ingredients for a mai tai are:

  • 3 cl amber Jamaican rum
  • 3 cl Martinique molasses rum
  • 1.5 cl orange curaçao
  • 1.5 cl orgeat syrup
  • 3 cl fresh lime juice
  • .75 cl simple syrup

Other rum cocktails include:

  • Blow My Skull Off
  • Fogg Cutter (not to be confused with the Fog Cutter which it is based on)
  • Hangman’s Blood (I assume this contains Jamaican rum as it comes from a book called A High Wind in Jamaica)
  • Zombie
  • Anything made with Tia Maria like Espresso Martini, Skinny Tia White Russian, and Orgasm
  • Doctor
  • Modernista
  • Mr. Bali Hai
  • Ancient Mariner

Conclusion

Phew, that’s a lot of alcohol. Jamaican rum’s colonial past mustn’t be overlooked. Enslaved people made the drink what it was for centuries before it was reclaimed by free Jamaican men and women. That’s not to say Jamaican rum has stayed within the island as the vast number of cocktails created by American Tiki bartenders and newer brands by European alcohol distillers can show. But you can’t beat the originals.

And, as always, drink responsibly.

'Jamaican English is unique', says UWI Mona study

Black Jamaican Man

A study conducted by The University of the West Indies, Mona campus in Jamaica, found that Jamaican Standard English was unique enough to be classed as a “distinct variation” of the English language.

Rather than looking at accent and lexicon, the study analysed the acoustic properties of Jamaican English. The work came as part of a Department of Physics literacy project for tutoring Jamaican children and used speech models from 360 students in 12 schools.

Comparisons were made between American and British Standard English looking for differences in phonetic qualities and acoustics. Dr Andre Coy, senior physics lecturer in The Faculty of Science and Technology, told the Jamaica Observer explained that the purpose of the study was to aid Jamaica’s education system:

“The broader context is that we want to be able to use speech and language technologies, such as speech recognition or speech synthesis, in the assistance with education in Jamaica. We have the capacity at The UWI, Mona to use and develop speech recognition and synthesis technologies. Why not employ them to assist with vulnerable groups, such as children who are struggling to read or with the disabled, to develop assistant technologies for them?”

While this isn’t the same as acknowledging Jamaican patois as a language separate from English (which is something that has been discussed by UWI), it’s a step in the right direction and its use in boosting the education system is the ultimate goal and a positive one at that.

Further reading

28 facts about Jamaican culture

For a tiny island in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica has had a massive impact on the world in a number of ways. But there’s much more to Jamaica than Bob Marley and Cool Runnings and that doesn’t always get represented. That’s why I’ll be giving you 28 facts about Jamaican culture to broaden your scope and show you just how influential the nation has been.

The history of Jamaica

  1. The name ‘Jamaica’ comes from the Arawakan ‘Xaymaca’ meaning ‘Land of Wood and Water’.
  2. Before the island was colonised, a group known as the “Redware people” arrived in Jamaica in 600 AD and then the Arawak–Taíno around 200 years later. Known as Yamaye, some of the natives still remain on the island.
  3. Jamaica gained independence from the British on 6th August 1962 and was the first English-speaking Caribbean island to do so.
  4. Jamaica’s motto is ‘Out of Many, One People’.
  5. Jamaica is a member of CARICOM, the Commonwealth, IMF (International Monetary Fund), the UN, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), and WHO (World Health Organization).
  6. Kingston is capital of Jamaica but it’s in the smallest parish on the island by area (25km²).
  7. The yellow (or gold), black and green of the Jamaican flag represent the shining sun, the strength and creativity of the people, and the land.

Language

  1. While the official language of Jamaica is ‘Jamaican Standard English’, Jamaican patois is widely used and arguably the most well-known language spoken on the island. There have been many calls for it be classed as an official language.
  2. Jamaica is the third-most populous English-speaking country in the Americas, after the United States and Canada.

Religion

  1. Christianity is the largest religion on the island and has played a major role in Jamaican culture, as with many Black communities from the diaspora.
  2. The most notable derivative of that is the Rastafari movement, with its strong connections to Africa. Originating in the 1930s, Rastafarians follow teachings from the Old and New Testament but the movement is distinct in its belief that Ethiopia’s former Emperor, Haile Selassie, was the human embodiment of God.
  3. Besides Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism, Jamaica also has a congregation of Baha’i followers. In 2003, the then-Governor General of Jamaica, Sir Howard Cooke, made the 25th July ‘National Bahá’í Day’.
Jamaican man

Humanities

  1. Tony-Award-winning choreographer Garth Fagan was born in Kingston, Jamaica.
  2. A dance known as Bruckins is performed during Emancipation Day.
  3. Nobel prize laureate Derek Walcott, attended college in Jamaica.
  4. James Bond writer Ian Fleming wrote his Bond novels while living in Jamaica.
  5. 2015 Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James was born in Kingston.

Society

  1. Nine-Nights is a funeral tradition practised in Caribbean nations including Jamaica where people take part in an extended wake that lasts for several days. In that time, friends and family share anecdotes, eat food and sing hymns together.
  2. Some Jamaican believe burying the umbilical cord of a newborn under a tree is said to give the child a permanent connection to the island.
  3. In 2019, Jamaica reported its lowest unemployment rate in 50 years.

Sport

  1. Every August, the Pushcart derby takes place, involving races between push carts, similar to American soap box races. The finals take place in the parish of St Elizabeth.
  2. Jamaican has won 78 medals at the Olympics, including 1 bronze medal in the men’s cycling 1 km time trial at Moscow 1980.

Fashion

  1. The Kariba suit is a two-piece suit for men, popularised by former Prime Minister, Michael Manley. Designed in Jamaica in the early 1970s, the suit was made as a form of businesswear to replace standard European suits. When Manley and the People’s National Party came to power in 1972, Parliament passed a law making the Kariba suit the official outfit for formal government functions.
  2. The Quadrille dress is worn in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries but the quadrille dance, for which it is worn, is only danced in Jamaica and Trinidad today.

Nature

  1. Jamaica’s national flower is the lignum vitae while the national bird is the red-billed streamertail or ‘doctor bird‘.
  2. The Jamaican boa is the largest snake on the island but none of the eight species of snakes on the island are venomous.
  3. Jamaica’s exports include sugar, bananas, cocoa, coconut, grapefruit, rum, yams, and Blue Mountain Coffee.
  4. The Jamaican slider is a species of turtle that’s only found in Jamaica and on a few islands in the Bahamas.

8 Things My Mum Made Me Buy From West Indian Shops

Picture taken in a West Indian shop, from Riaz Phillips' Belly Full series

I love my West Indian heritage. Whenever I can, I claim it above being British as I feel more at home amongst family and my kinfolk. A part of that comes from the Jamaican cuisine and having to buy ingredients for certain dishes.

As a teenager, I’d have to go out to various ethnic shops (often South Asian-owned) but I also went to West Indian shops that stocked all the things my mum needed. I didn’t always enjoy doing it (who wants to run errands while you’re in the middle of playing video games?). But as I got older, it was nice to go for a walk and immerse myself in the culture.

So, here are 5 things my mum made me buy from West Indian shops.

Jamaican bread (or hard dough bread to everyone outside my family)

Jamaican bread (or hard dough bread to everyone outside my family)

I didn’t know it was generally known as hard dough bread until my late teens. I always knew it as Jamaican bread and that’s what I call it to this day. It’s the best bread on the planet as far as I’m concerned. It’s thick, sweet, and demands a slab of butter on it by default.

In terms of size and shape, I started out buying the square-shaped loaves but as time passed, we moved onto the rounder loaves. It was a better choice. You got more bread for your money that way. Who cares if it’s misshapen? This ain’t Bake Off.

Bun (spiced bun)

Bun (spiced bun)
A smaller version

There is no better bun out there. The Jamaican spiced bun is often eaten during Easter and that’s when I usually got it but the tradition extended to Christmas because why not?!

For anyone who hasn’t experienced this Jamaican delicacy, the bun is often round and dark brown, filled with currants or raisins and goes hand in hand with cheese (although I eat it with butter mostly). And a glass of milk to wash it all down. I’m sure the vegan alternatives would go superbly with it as well.

Coconut cream

Coconut cream

This often shocks people but I don’t like coconut. The taste makes me wretch, particularly if it’s desiccated coconut. Not a fan of the water. But the cream and the milk is fine in food… if the flavour isn’t prominent.

That’s how I managed to eat rice and peas with coconut cream in it for so many years. It was a Sunday staple and I’d regularly buy the boxed form from KTC.

Encona Hot Pepper Sauce

Encona Hot Pepper Sauce

It’s strange that I can’t handle spicy food and yet I’ve written about ghost peppers and hot gummy bears. I live for the intrigue I guess.

My mum couldn’t eat her food without Encona. Had to be that brand. Recently, she’d been “slumming it” with Tabasco as they didn’t sell Encona where she lived. When I visited earlier this month, I brought two bottles of Encona for her. She was happy.

The pepper used in the sauce is the Scotch bonnet, which is more than 10x hotter than the hottest jalapeño. It’s no ghost pepper but it’s fire for anyone who can’t handle heat like me. You’ll definitely need another glass of milk for this one.

Green bananas

Green bananas

This wasn’t a regular purchase but still one I made. Some may know them as guineos in Latin America, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic and they’re basically unripened bananas. My mum would boil them and we’d eat them with dumplings (often boiled too but occasionally fried) and yam (we’ll get to that one later).

Not my favourite savoury food as it didn’t taste of anything so that’s when the gravy came in, to add some flavour.

Honourary mentions

Some of these weren’t exclusively purchased at West Indian shops but they were things I bought on my travels and remind me of my black heritage.

Yam

There was an art to buying the right yam. My mum did it most of the time but on the occasions I did, the pieces had to be clean-ish, big-ish, and cheap-ish.

Much like green bananas, I wasn’t a fan (in fact, I hated them as a kid). But my tastes matured and a bit of gravy went a long way.

KA drinks – Karibbean Kola or Black Grape

The Caribbean amber nectar. I know people love Supermalt but Karibbean Kola and Black Grape were my drinks. Sweet beyond words but the flavour! They were exquisite.

West Indian shops often have fridge shelves filled with them. That’s when you know you’re in the right place.

Nurishment

Speaking of delightfully sweet drinks contributing to diabetes in black people, it’s Nurishment! Besides the sugar, the cans have all the vitamins you need for the day and it comes in an assortment of flavours – my favourite is strawberry.

I still buy them every now and again but I always check the price. If they’re on offer, they’re about £1 otherwise I don’t pay any more than £1.40, which is the RRP. I don’t usually buy them in West Indian shops either.

(main image source: Evening Standard)

Making Peace in Jamaica with former gang members

Making Peace documentary

One of my favourite Jamaican proverbs is “if you cannot hear, you must feel” and that’s something many Jamaican live by. Making Peace is a documentary about former gang members who probably followed that unwritten law in their former lives.

They now work as part of Jamaica’s Peace Management Initiative, a UNICEF-support non-profit aiming to end gang violence in the country. The “Violence Interrupters” as they’re known, work in some of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in Jamaica and have their own stories to tell.

Many of them started out in child gangs and spent varying time in prison and saw friends and family die. Dave Sewell is a PMI Liaison officer and got involved in crime at 17. He went onto spend 20 years in prison with 9 of them on death row. He now says he’d “rather die than go back to prison”.

The film was shot on location in Montego Bay, which may surprise those who think the area is a paradise for white tourists looking to “escape” their lives elsewhere. Jamaica has one of the highest murder rates in the world, with Montego Bay and Kingston amongst the worst areas on the island.

Making Peace is the briefest glimpse into the lives of those involved in crime in Jamaica. The perpetrators were given a second chance but their victims and many more aren’t so lucky.

Credits

  • Director: Matthew K. Firpo
  • Executive Producer: Maximilian Guen
  • Cinematographer: Stuart Winecoff
  • Editor: Stephen Michael Simon
  • Original Score: Gavin Brivik
  • Colorist: Carlos Flores
  • Co-Producer: Rosanna Bach
  • Sound Design & Mix: Sean Higgins
  • 1st Assistant Camera: Gary Bardizbanian
  • Location Sound: Saeed Thomas
  • Associate Producers: Donia Quan & Casey Rotter

Khalik Allah's "Black Mother" is a spiritual trip through Jamaica

Theatrical poster for Khalik Allah's Black Mother. Designed by Midnight Marauder

I love my Jamaican heritage and love any from of art that exhibits its richness. Black Mother does exactly that. The film, directed by Khalik Allah, takes you on a journey through the Caribbean island but not the kind you’d find on a Sandals commercial. Black Mother shows the true Jamaica with all its highs and lows, beauty, scars, and all. Critics have called it “thrilling and hallucinatory”, “spiritual and philosophical” and “dazzling cinematic poetry”.

Thoroughly immersed between the sacred and profane, Black Mother channels rebellion and reverence into a deeply personal ode informed by Jamaica’s turbulent history but existing in the urgent present.

via Grasshopper Film

Black Mother features sex workers, Rastafarians, and Revivalists who weave their life experiences into the greater Jamaican tapestry. This is a must watch.

Stream the trailer below and purchase the movie poster on the Grasshopper Film website. If you happen to be in or around Beverly Hills on 10th May, screening will take place at the Laemmle Music Hall.