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Isaac Mendes Belisario: Art And Emancipation In Jamaica

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Due to great public interest this exhibition it has been extended until June 28th, 2008.

The British trans-Atlantic slave trade in African peoples ended two hundred years ago. However, the practice of slavery continued and the legacy of this economy is still being felt today. The Jewish Jamaican painter Isaac Mendes Belisario (1795-1849) was an artist whose paintings and engravings of Jamaica provide an invaluable insight into the social realities of slavery at a pivotal moment in Jamaican history. Working in times of change and rebellion, his images record the cultural responses of the enslaved and emancipated, the economic, material and cultural interests of the landowning and slave-owning elite and the beauty of a land that had been shaped by the sugar economy.

The genesis of this exhibition lies in the exhibition Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and His Worlds, organized by the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven. This ground-breaking exhibition was curated by Gillian Forrester, Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings, Yale Center for British Art; Tim Barringer, Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art, Yale University; and Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz, Assistant Professor, Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University. The National Gallery of Jamaica is presenting an abridged and amended version of the exhibition utilising the Jamaican loans to the original exhibition and additional loans from various Jamaican collections. The title of this exhibition is Isaac Mendes Belisario: Art and Emancipation in Jamaica and is curated by Dr David Boxer.

The exhibition chronicles the iconography of sugar, slavery, and the topography of Jamaica from the beginning of British rule in 1655 to the aftermath of emancipation in the 1840s, with a particular focus on the turbulent years preceding and immediately following emancipation in 1838. Gathered together will be paintings, drawings, and prints depicting life on the Jamaican and West Indian sugar plantation and images used by the anti-slavery campaign. The works of major British artists of the period who visited Jamaica, George Robertson, Phillip Wickstead, James Hakewill and Joseph Kidd, as well as the French-born lithographer and daguerreotypist Adolphe Duperly, are presented alongside those of the Jewish, Jamaican-born artist, Isaac Mendes Belisario, who practised in London before returning to Jamaica to establish a studio here.

At the heart of the exhibition is the remarkable series of lithographs Sketches of Character, In Illustration of the Habits, Occupation, and Costume of the Negro Population in the Island of Jamaica, published by Belisario in collaboration with the lithographer Adolphe Duperly, in 1837-38. Sketches of Character provides the first detailed visual representation of Jonkonnu (or John Canoe), the celebrated Afro-Jamaican masquerade performed by the enslaved during the Christmas and New Year holidays. Tracing the West African roots of Jonkonnu, its evolution in Jamaica, and continuing transformation into the twenty-first century, the exhibition will feature subsequent manifestations of Jonkunno through costumes, musical instruments and video footage of historic and contemporary performance.

The National Gallery is free to all schoolchildren and students with a valid ID.

Images from the exhibition are available on request


Location: The National Gallery of Jamaica, 12 Ocean Boulevard (corner of Orange Street and Ocean Boulevard), Kingston Mall, Kingston, Jamaica

Web site: www.galleryjamaica.org

Phone: (876) 922 1561/2/4

Fax: 922 8544

Email: [email protected]

Admission: Free and open to schoolchildren and students of all ages, J$50 for senior citizens, J$100 for adults

Hours: Tuesday – Thursday: 10 a.m. – 4. 30 p.m., Friday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Closed Sundays, Mondays and major holidays

Reference Library and Study Room: Open during Gallery hours 876 922 1561 x 28

Museum Shop: Open during Gallery hours 876 922 1561 x 30

Group Tours: J$800 for up to 25 persons. To schedule group tours Tuesday through Saturday, call 876 922 1561 x 28

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