‘JAMAICONS’ – JA50 Anniversary Exhibition

6 August 2012.

Jamaica and its diaspora celebrate their historic 50th anniversary of Independence.

To mark this event I was privileged to have the opportunity to create a series of several bold, iconic artworks representing a select group of Jamaican historical and cultural figures.

This unique outdoor exhibition was launched as part of the annual Brixton Splash Street Festival in London, which embraced Jamaica’s 50th anniversary celebrations and national motto, ‘Out of many, One People’ as its central theme.

The iconic display dubbed “Jamaicons” was a cultural hijack of the exterior picture wall of the renowned Ritzy Picturehouse cinema in Brixton, and the first time the organisation had ever permitted it to be used in this way.

There is no doubting the enormity of Jamaica’s cultural impact on the world. Therefore selection of just nine individuals to portray Jamaica’s true historical depth and breadth was certainly a challenge. However, I made my selection based on my own personal judgement and decided to leave it to ‘the people’ to determine if what i had portrayed was just.

In my selection, I not only wanted to ensure I had a fair mix between male and female, but also between the deceased and the living; the political and the cultural; and the famous and the infamous.

The artistic style of the portraits is deliberately graphic and contemporary, thus embracing a younger audience to be drawn to the more historical and political subjects, without alienating an audience who already has a heightened awareness and black historical consciousness.

The iconography of the portraits is then further embellished through the consistent powerful use of the Jamaican national colours of black, golden yellow and green.

Through these images, the emotion I hoped to elicit was one of ‘Pride’. Not just from Jamaicans, but also from the public in general.

Brixton Splash 'Jamaicons' Panoramic by Kofi Allen







Their prominent display at this time in Brixton was extremely fitting. Not only for its historical importance as a home to primarily Jamaican immigrants that formed part of the ‘Windrush Generation’ of the 1940s and 50s; but also due to its significance as Britain’s premier multicultural heartland and a place, that admirably reflects the Jamaica’s national motto, ‘Out of many, One people’.

The resulting exhibition was embraced not only by all the Brixton Splash festival revelers, but also by the thousands of daily Brixton residents and visitors who passed by for the following 3 months that it remained on display.

The final exhibition of nine ‘Jamaicons’ were: Queen Nanny, Marcus Garvey, Grace Jones, Robert Nesta Marley, Usain Bolt, Merlene Ottey, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Mary Seacole and Michael Holding.

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