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Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Unconventional Gift

The Unconventional Gift 
A view from Strawberry Fields
What will you be doing this Christmas? For us believers we will most likely be spending the morning in church, revisiting the reasons why we believe and serve; to forget about ourselves and focus on the "Light of the World." For others it will be a day where folks from across the globe make that extra effort to convene in one location for big dinners and merry making. Drink some wine, get a little tipsy, perhaps a little drunk, fatten our stomachs on the stuffed turkey or ham, the pound cake, the sorrel; the list goes on. And for a chosen few, the 25th will be a day of quiet reflection on the months that have passed and on how suddenly the year is ending. Those New Year’s resolutions will be in tow as we convince ourselves that the coming year will be “the year”  for the fulfilment of our dreams. 

For those who have no idea how they will be spending the rest of the season, here's an unconventional idea. Take a trip away from the city cluster and stress of Christmas shopping to a getaway where man meets nature and nature embraces man.

A few days ago I took a road trip with one of my friends to his backyard in the banana parish, a place also infiltrated with the Rasta vibration. To my surprise I pounced upon a few skin-bleachers, but mostly I was greeted by humble country men and women who understood and enjoyed the simplicity of life. The people of St. Mary will welcome and hail you, not with a “Wah gwaan”, but instead, with a colloquial “mannaz” deriving from the word “manners” meaning “respect”.

However the purpose of this trip was to experience what I now describe the “Bongo Living.” I took lodge in the hills of Albany at a bungalow owned by a Rasta, affectionately called Bongo, who takes on the subtle temperaments of an Indian Yogi. Very much wise for his years, he stays abreast with the current happenings of the world without the use of the latest gadgets. All he needs is his radio permanently stuck on the BBC and his daily reading of healthy living magazines, which he retrieves on a monthly basis from his American friends without having access to a mailbox. The information he gathers transforms him into a well read and knowledgeable machine.

A laid back, slow talking dread he is, but a man cognisant of spirituality even not limited to that of Rastafarianism. Bongo is the all around health guru, from his solar electricity to his vegan diet, complemented with his daily consumption of herbal and "bush" teas and vitamins. My friends and I never leave the Bongo cabin without a full dose of his special bread and smoothies, and not to mention swinging idly in hammocks or dosing on the cots against the wooden floors. We take a small recess from Bongo's cottage and drive  to another part of the country area, trekking partway to Winter Hill to take in the lush vegetation and the striking mountain view, while sucking on slices of sugar cane. 

The next stop is Robin’s Bay to a small resort called Strawberry Fields. While my two companions swim, I, donned in my swimwear, use the ambiance to reflect and write pieces to a developing new story. Like a tourist I trot around my friend’s backyard, already deciding to make another trip. 

So, I ask again. What are your plans this Christmas? If you are still battling to find a solution, how about a peaceful escape similar to my St. Mary experience. I can’t truly explain the pleasure that overcomes me while the breathtaking surroundings inculcate my senses. You have to experience it yourself.  

This season experience God’s gift to us—beautiful lands and seas. Discover the island’s hidden treasures, including the one’s often times overlooked, like the banana parish. This could be your perfect gift to a special someone, your friends and or family and even to yourself. It’s inexpensive and most of all, exhilarating. And if the day is already designated to something else, there are still six days left in the year to unwrap that package of escape.

Have a wonderful Christmas and may your endeavours be fulfilled in the coming year.

God’s blessings!

A slice of Bongo's special wheat bread

On the way up Winter Hill

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


"Sometimes when I write songs, I treat my father like ... he's still with me."

Who is OMI and why this sudden buzz about him? Well if you haven’t yet been introduced to this young Jamaican singer here is your chance. 

At the time when I conducted this interview, it so happened to be OMI's first. I was kindly reminded my his manager that I was given a great privilege, albeit, I had to wait until his label started promotions before I could actually post anything. Now that his sound has been hitting the airwaves, this feature is long over due...

OMI, née Omar Samuel Pasley, is from a modest lifestyle in Clarendon and is no stranger to the creative arts.  He graduated from Garvey Maceo High and later secured a position as a Graphic Artist at the Super Plus Supermarket in May Pen. Garvey Maceo seems to be the new breeding ground for young talent ranging from fine art to music.  Know I-Octane? Well he hails from the same school.  So, is Garvey Maceo the place to go for scouting new talent?  Well that’s too soon to say, but by the looks of Omar ‘OMI’ Pasley, the idea doesn’t seem so farfetched.  

Outside of his voice and song writing, Pasley prides in being a painter, honing is ability to do portraits.  But that’s not why he intrigues me, what I find fascinating is his sound.  Think of Tarrus Riley or a John Legend and you have an idea. But in all honesty, OMI brings to the table a sound that no other artist has to date.  That’s exactly why Jamaican music/business mogul and producer SP wasted no time in scooping him up.

SP, known for catapulting Shabba Ranks’ career, discovered Pasley almost on a whim.  He had been in discussions with Sydney Bartley, Director of Culture of the Jamaican Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture of Jamaica, also a Clarendon native where the minister encouraged him to source talent from the parish to assists its young aspirants. SP retold his experience that day he visited the Garvey Maceo High School. He was introduced to seven talents and being somewhat of a knit picky man he was hardly wooed. Naturally he left disappointed, but later received a sound bite with one of Pasley’s tracks and from the first note, SP saw a reason to invest.

Now SP and OMI are working on securing the twenty-four year old’s image and his market. OMI believes that crossing paths with SP was fate, claiming that the producer holds uncanny similarities to his father, who passed away at forty-two. 

Photo: Marvin Bartley

“The way how SP handles things, his seriousness and quick thinking, is like my father. And sometimes I’m just amazed,” reflected Pasley.

Pursuing music is not just a fancy for the young artiste.  He grew up with a father who also painted and who was a singer and song writer and it seemed more than fitting that he wears the same hat today.  For Pasley his career is a dream lived through his father’s spirit. 

“Sometimes when I write songs, I treat my father like he’s SP and I almost ask him aloud if he likes the sound or if the words are good,” the deeply contemplative Pasley said.  “It’s like he’s still with me.”

By OMI’s image and, most importantly, his sound, the young singer is bound to have future records deals and longevity in the business, especially with a level-headed manager like SP. Currently two albums are in the works and according to the singer his topics cover a wide range of issues from sex, love, and modern day controversy. His current singles “Cheerleader” and “Standing on All Threes” clearly shows his diversity and differentiates him from the rest of the pack.  So, don’t take him lightly. 

Just as Pasley is passionate about his craft, so is he about his spiritually. When asked the million dollar question, what is the one thing he cannot leave the house without, he boldly replied, “Prayer.”


Five Things You Should Know about OMI
  1. I’m a perfectionist
  2. Very Disciplined
  3. I like every single genre of music, even if it’s in a foreign language
  4. Love the elements of lyrics and vocals. The way how words are used to bring across a message intrigues me
  5. Love women...jus’ joking. I like women, but seriously I’m a family person
Check out his tracks here:
"Standing on All Threes"


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Night Out into the Town...Downtown, Kingston

Earlier this month I, along with a few friends, decided to treat one of our visiting photographers from Long Island, New York to a photography night out. He's a very successful Photojournalist and we considered that the beardedness of Downtown Kingston would appeal to him. 

I guess it's only natural that after dating a photographer for more than four years, taking photos would rub off on me somehow. For now, all I care to own is my SONY DSC-WX9, which is a nifty point and shoot that actually gives you some amazing photos.

It was around 8:30 at night when we jumped into our cars and found ourselves on East King Street. In no time we took to our feet and trotted through the streets, hoping to find something memorable. Something quaint. Something strange and intriguing. Something worth capturing.

After walking around and snapping for ten minutes that foreboding facade that the city sometimes masks itself with was easily shed and the four of us Jamaicans, along with our visitor were like tourists in our own country. The streets were mostly empty and carried its usual rugged and isolated exterior.  I even pounced upon feces in a box, which I photographed, then later deleted for good reason. I should commend the doer for having the good sense of sparing us the horrific experience of greeting his/her defecation with our feet. That would not have been pretty.

We arrived at the square and the night finally came alive. To see a group of five all carrying cameras with no interest in supporting any sales, it was no surprise when we received curious and unwelcoming stares. No one likes to be documented, at least not without reason. So while some individuals eluded our cameras--though we concentrated on capturing objects not people--some boldly demanded what our intentions were. I guess it's hard for some to believe that we just wanted to take pictures for the sake of taking pictures.

Nonetheless, the tense energy we were greeted with quelled when everyone sensed we meant no harm. One guy even offered to have his stocks taken, so as long as he was not in it. When we had our fill, we circled the square and settled by the harbour to soak in the night lights dancing against the dark waters. And I discovered light painting for the first time. No one could figure out how I got what looked like a tiny star explosion in its galaxy.  Really cool!

The night ended well. Our American friend was pleased and for a first-timer like myself, capturing downtown in the night was a titillating escape. I toyed with the colour of some of the images in a program called Lightroom and got some cool results. My little SONY point and shoot isn't so bad after all.  What do you think?

Definitely find a group of trustworthy friends and capture your own moment. There are so many interesting and picturesque places in Jamaica that have yet to be discovered. As you can see above, a point and shoot is just as useful as a film or a DSLR camera. So grab your camera and go discover!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I must start off by congratulating Ms. Ebony G. Patterson on her latest accomplishment. She has been granted The Rex Nettleford Fellowship in Cultural Studies. All the best Ebony! I look forward to seeing how your work with evolve over the coming years.

If you are just joining me. I've been featuring one of Jamaica's well noted, young visual artists, Ebony G. Patterson. Catch up her previous features here:

The vivacious and opinionated artist shared some details with me, as I dug a little deeper into her life and the mind behind the works.

Ebony, would you say you've found your calling? 
It found me :). I mean if you think about it the conditions were right and ripe. Alot of people did think that I would have gone into performing. But people also knew that I loved the Visual Arts. I have always been a creative individual, so it was inevitable. Can you see me in a bank, in a suit????? Jeans for life! She also forgot to say converse shoes and gladiator slippers.

So you were featured as one of the speakers for TEDx Irie last April. That’s a big deal! Congratulations! What went through your mind initially when you got the news?
Thanks (blush***)! I thought, "MEEEEEEEEEE??????? Oh dear, I have to think about this." Then I said to myself, "are you crazy?! You can do this!" And so I nervously did! I was really terrified until I got up there.

In your TEDx presentation you ended with a rhetorical, 'where’s Ebony now?' So you’ve transcended to using photographical imagery for your work, will you ever go back to painting?
I am always painting! I just had a whole show of drawing in Chicago in March at the Monique Meloche Gallery. I use photography as a tool not a medium. I have not reverenced to it materially, so I treat it in the same way I would a painting, adding physical layers.  But as far as I am concerned I see those as painting ... because the language and the materiality is the same.

Things have a more 'juvenile' approach in Ebony's latest work in progress, similar to that of The Fambily Series. This time she focuses on gangsta babies and kids, with their bleached out faces, bad ass outfits, toy guns with balloons and teddy bears, of course.
Works not yet edited.

From left (back): Nzingha, Aziza, Zjadaine, Malachi, Jake
From left (front): Kaleb, Nasir, Daniel
Ebony instructs one of her lil' juveniles, Zjadaine, in her latest project, while Marvin Bartley shoots (Aug. 2011)
How many exhibitions have you been a part of to date?
Oh Dear Chevy! 'Whole heap.' Hmm, a number ... 40 or more, not including solos. I have been showing since Undergrad.

Out of the many exhibitions, which is the most memorable?
I would have to say my first major museum show, Infinite Islands, at the Brooklyn museum 2007. It was the first survey of contemporary Caribbean art by a major museum. I was just  a few months out of Grad school. Some people dont even get that kind of acknowledgement  during their whole life as artist; and to get that at such an early point in my career is tremendous.

What would be your greatest accomplishment to date and why?
Definitely The Rex Nettleford Fellowship. It's great that they wanted to support my project.

Do you consider yourself successful? Is this where you imagined you would be? Or are you surprised and have you a long way to go?
Hmm I think given where I am, I have aquired much success. But I wouldn't say I am where I want to be yet. Given where I am and how my career has developed things have been moving quite steadily.  But when I was a student at Edna Manley College I wasn't concerned about being a successful artist. I just wanted to make and share my  work.  As I have matured, I've maintained that in order to be where I am.

I'm where I want to be and that is important; but I am hungry for more and that keeps me focused and driven. Am I surprised? Sometimes, but its not because I didn't believe I had what it took. I am just as amazed at the amazing journey that what I love has taken me on.
Outside of the sensationalism of dancehall and how it essentially influences the outward appearances of men in that realm, are there any topics that have intrigued you now that you will explore in the future?
Hmm, I am always interested in issues of gender and ideas about identity; the politics of identity; and beauty, but these are things that I have always been dealing with even before the boys came into the picture. I am not sure if I am so concerned about the future. The work always takes me on a logical course, so the work will take me where ever we need to go.

Do you sense a promise in the art community from the younger upcoming artists?
DEFINITELY. There is always promise. Jamaica has an institution that pumps them out every year. However the larger question is, what happens to the promise? And, of course, just like all students anywhere in the world, sometimes what you study in school is not the field you go into. However, for the few that really want to make it work and keep it going, it takes real commitment, willingness and inventiveness to survive. All of those take real work; and if you are not willing to do that then you can get swallowed up real quick! I think the National Biennials and Young Talent V exhibitions last summer at The National Gallery of Jamaica are  great testaments to the fact that we have much potential. As a community we have always known that we were never short of this.

What direction do you think fine art in Jamaica is approaching and why?
We are being alot more open, materially, but there has always been some sense of openness from the gerneration before with people Like Pertrona Morrison and Omari Ra. But I think some of the dialogues are changing. We are beginning to reflect on the issues of our generation, which is what art is suppose to do—to reflect on the concerns of our own time.  

While the discussions about identity are still ongoing, we now have the examination and deconstruction of an art historical discourse going with the work of young artists, who are the so-called western cannon of art making as a way to discuss social and racial issues. We also have artists who are discussing issues about gender, politics of space and popular culture, violence. These, I think, are more current dialogues that are being added to the ongoing conversation from the previous generation of artists.

What’s next in the agenda for you?
Well, I have a major solo project with the National Gallery of Bermuda in 2012 and another solo project in Martinique.

Now that we’ve handled all the serious questions let’s get to the more fun stuff...

What’s your favourite way to pass the time?
I love dancing! And hanging out with friends, talking about nothing, and going to the burger drive-thru for a quick long bite, round about midnightish.

What can’t you leave the house without?
SUNGLASSES, EARRINGS, AND ALL THE JEWELLERY!!!!!!! I like that people think I am badass sometimes. I think its funny.

Is there anything that gets under your skin?
Men in sagging pants!

Anything extra you want to share with my readers and followers?
Go out and see an exhibition, find an artist friend and be supportive. It is healthy for your development and theirs.

See more of Ebony's works here:

Enjoyed the features with Ebony? Please share your sentiments and questions right here on this blog.

Don't forget to catch up on what you've missed right HERE:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why I Love What I Do

It's stories like these that keep me loving what I do.  This stalwart, relentless fight to get that dream is the reason my blog even exists. I LOVE this story of the "The Help" writer, Kathryn Stocketts and her fight to have her book published.  A book that is now made into a movie, currently showing in theatres.

Enjoy the feature by MORE Magazine featured on and staying true to my motto... guys, Never Give Up On Your Dreams.

Kathryn Stockett's 'The Help' Turned Down 60 Times Before Becoming a Best Seller

Katherine Sockett
Photographed by Ben Hoffmann
If you ask my husband my best trait, he’ll smile and say, “She never gives up.” But if you ask him my worst trait, he’ll get a funny tic in his cheek, narrow his eyes and hiss, “She. Never. Gives. Up.”
It took me a year and a half to write my earliest version of The Help. I’d told most of my friends and family what I was working on. Why not? We are compelled to talk about our passions. When I’d polished my story, I announced it was done and mailed it to a literary agent.
Six weeks later, I received a rejection letter from the agent, stating, “Story did not sustain my interest.” I was thrilled! I called my friends and told them I’d gotten my first rejection! Right away, I went back to editing. I was sure I could make the story tenser, more riveting, better.
A few months later, I sent it to a few more agents. And received a few more rejections. Well, more like 15. I was a little less giddy this time, but I kept my chin up. “Maybe the next book will be the one,” a friend said. Next book? I wasn’t about to move on to the next one just because of a few stupid letters. I wanted to write this book.
A year and a half later, I opened my 40th rejection: “There is no market for this kind of tiring writing.” That one finally made me cry. “You have so much resolve, Kathryn,” a friend said to me. “How do you keep yourself from feeling like this has been just a huge waste of your time?”
That was a hard weekend. I spent it in pajamas, slothing around that racetrack of self-pity—you know the one, from sofa to chair to bed to refrigerator, starting over again on the sofa. But I couldn’t let go of The Help. Call it tenacity, call it resolve or call it what my husband calls it: stubbornness.
After rejection number 40, I started lying to my friends about what I did on the weekends. They were amazed by how many times a person could repaint her apartment. The truth was, I was embarrassed for my friends and family to know I was still working on the same story, the one nobody apparently wanted to read.
Sometimes I’d go to literary conferences, just to be around other writers trying to get published. I’d inevitably meet some successful writer who’d tell me, “Just keep at it. I received 14 rejections before I finally got an agent. Fourteen. How many have you gotten?”
By rejection number 45, I was truly neurotic. It was all I could think about—revising the book, making it better, getting an agent, getting it published. I insisted on rewriting the last chapter an hour before I was due at the hospital to give birth to my daughter. I would not go to the hospital until I’d typed The End. I was still poring over my research in my hospital room when the nurse looked at me like I wasn’t human and said in a New Jersey accent, “Put the book down, you nut job—you’re crowning.”
It got worse. I started lying to my husband. It was as if I were having an affair—with 10 black maids and a skinny white girl. After my daughter was born, I began sneaking off to hotels on the weekends to get in a few hours of writing. I’m off to the Poconos! Off on a girls’ weekend! I’d say. Meanwhile, I’d be at the Comfort Inn around the corner. It was an awful way to act, but—for God’s sake—I could not make myself give up.
In the end, I received 60 rejections forThe Help. But letter number 61 was the one that accepted me. After my five years of writing and three and a half years of rejection, an agent named Susan Ramer took pity on me. What if I had given up at 15? Or 40? Or even 60? Three weeks later, Susan sold The Help to Amy Einhorn Books.
The point is, I can’t tell you how to succeed. But I can tell you how not to: Give in to the shame of being rejected and put your manuscript—or painting, song, voice, dance moves, [insert passion here]—in the coffin that is your bedside drawer and close it for good. I guarantee you that it won’t take you anywhere. Or you could do what this writer did: Give in to your obsession instead.
And if your friends make fun of you for chasing your dream, remember—just lie.
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Editor's Note: This essay appears in the anthology The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives, edited by Katie Couric and published by Random House in April. Stockett's novel went on to be a bestseller and the movie "The Help" premieres on August 10.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

From Gangstas to Disciplez...Ebony G. Patterson Takes A Creative Approach to Dancehall

“ longer takes on the whole notion of colour inferiority…now it’s a statement of masculinity.”

For someone who has exhibited in more than forty group exhibitions, a growing number of solo shows, and has been feature in countless publications, one would think that contemporary visual artist Ebony G. Patterson has been on this earth for at least fifty years.  But nah, she’s only thirty.

It’s no accident she’s an artist today. Before graduating from The Queens School, Jamaica, she cautiously reflected on her life and what she wanted to pursue. As a child Patterson was constantly surrounded by creative people. Her mother’s first assignment for the then three year old was to draw a roach, of all things.  Her job was so, astonishingly, well done that the precious work of art was readily displayed among her mother's co-workers.

Patterson’s father had other intentions for the toddler, balancing his daughter’s drawing of roaches with birds  by teaching her how to sketch the chirping creatures. She mastered that easily, and while she commandeered the art of drawing she found time with her god-sister and musical neighbours to sing in their back yard.

With that kind of exposure it seemed only logical that she studied at the tertiary level at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (EMCVPA), where she majored in Painting. 

“My parents were both stunned when I said I wanted to be an artist and a part time singer.  Go figure,” Patterson  reflected.

Perhaps her parents suffered from a bout of creative remorse. But Patterson continued on a sure path, continuing her studies At Sam Fox College, which led to a secure post as Assistant Professor in Painting at the University of Kentucky. 

The contemporary artist has always been fascinated with Dancehall and its impact on Jamaica's working class. While dancehall culture tends to portray this form of aggression, Patterson undermines that notion in her collage of images—Gangstas for Life, which is an exploration of “the grotesque as the sought after beauty.” 

In other words: bleaching, the noticeable cross gender appearances in fashion, where saggy pants make way for a tighter fit; earth tone and more sombre colours becoming bright reds, oranges, greens or any bold representation of the lively transformation of dancehall and its cultural impact. 

In her recent TEDx Irie presentation held in Kingston in early April of this year, Patterson shone some light on one of her most recent exhibitions, Gangstas, Disciplez + Doiley Boyz

“Bleaching, it seems, no longer takes on the whole notion of colour inferiority…now it’s a statement of masculinity,” she explained.

Exhibit A: Patterson's impression of gangstas, their styles, and their bleaching
Behind the Scenes -- 'Gully Godz in Conversation', 2009 (Shot by Monique Gilpin)
I suppose if you consider the recent buzz surrounding Dancehall artiste Vybz Kartel and his proud proclamation of de-colouring his skin tone, one sees her point.  Kartel makes it clear that he is not uncomfortable with his race and instead glamorizes bleaching as a way of making him more attractive and desirable to the opposite sex.

Currently, Patterson is expanding her line of work, staying true to the dancehall stereotypes and prototypes. Her work in progress under The Fambily Series called The Brella Crew, is an impression taken in part from Kartel’s infamous personification of Michael Jackson having to walk under an umbrella when in day light to protect his skin from the sun. This work in progress will highlight in more detail how dancehall has not only shaped the individual, but the family unit. 

With the help of Photographer, Marvin Bartley, her two assistants, and models with impressive 'gangsta' impersonations, Patterson was able to pull off her latest project on the Brella Crew. Now she's even adding more intrigue by adding her interpretation, in pure Ebony form, of young gangsta disciplez, i.e., young children and teenagers.

See behind the scenes of the Brella Crew shoot here:
Her very own Vybz Kartel.  Ebony applies glitter to her models face to give the perfect bleaching effect.

With an assortment of gansta babies, teens and pack leaders, Ebony heavily deliberates the placement of each model for the perfect Brella Crew Fambily Portrait

gangsta babies Aziza (left) and Daniel (right) have no qualms about bringing it for the camera

Take a closer look at some of Ebony's works over the years:


Join me a week from today, Monday, August 15 for a continuation of Ebony's feature: Part III titled "In conversation with Ebony G. Patterson"

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