A surreal feeling creeps over me whenever I pull myself away and observe this project from a uninvolved perspective. With that said, I find that even being a part of Paint Jamaica since inception has done little to cushion the mystifying effect that it has on the Jamaican reality so far. It is a first for a lot of things, though it is not the first art project of this nature in this country. I like to say that Paint Jamaica is the exemplary answer, the answer to the questions; What is possible? What can we do? How can we fix it? The team currently consists of a few individuals such as Marianna Farag, Djet Layne, Matthew McCarthy, Taj Francis, Kokab Zohoori Dossa, Claude-Michael Pringle, Randall Richards, Christopher Lee Muray and Myself to name a few. We will in a couple hours embark on our ninth day of painting. Day nine of painting every other day, apparently means most of the murals are either already finished, or close, we work fast.
The visual Centre pieces are contributed by the young visual artistes within the team who are given groups of volunteers to help them complete their designs. Then there are the kids. The community children who have long before us found this warehouse a place to recreate and have fun. The space attracts that kind of peaceful and playful energy that the children are attracted to it, whether it be football, hopscotch, netball, or just plain fooling around, these kids were doing it all, while the project was taking place. There was an unforced air of contentment and understanding.
Art is a lot of things, but firstly it is freedom. Freedom to be. It has a tendency to revert the mind to a childlike state, where free form expression is perhaps more acceptable, but also more innate and undisturbed. It is a healing and healing, as I understand it, is the restoring of something to its original undisturbed form. As far back as I can remember, art, whether it had been drawing, painting, or writing poetry, always had a therapeutic effect. As though, after a hard day of failing at all these expectations the world has of you, you can just do something to express how you feel without being judged on it or for it. Going down to the warehouse every other day for Paint Jamaica feels like that. You come down and to paint and need not worry about anything but the paint, the brush and the wall.
With every brush stroke, the problems and stresses would melt away, and you would be enraptured in this magical process. I believe it was Matthew McCarthy who said to me “Paint is a living thing”. For that period of painting, you would be a kid again and perhaps that is why the kids from the community fit so well in the environment. We were all kids in that regard, we all just wanted to paint some walls. Perhaps it stemmed from an innate need as children to repair ourselves through expression of this nature. This likely means that kids like myself, that used to fill their books with cartoon drawings instead of school work, were working through something, trying to heal themselves. Attempting to recreate a moment of joy. Human beings are very nostalgic creatures. There are few forces more powerful in us than that desire to revisit the past, to enjoy a tender moment that is already lost to us. The desire to return to a state of wholesome contentment. It is a natural prerogative to create or recreate an experience for whichever reason, and what better reason than for healing.
But before all of this artistic and existential communion could take place, a lot had to happen for Paint Jamaica to become a reality. It started with some ideas and first manifested in the digital world as a crowd funding page with a cap of two thousand US dollars. Two thousand US dollars later, we have a huge warehouse, a main sponsor, affiliates and the media trying to get their slice of the Paint Jamaica story. The road to this was long and worth it and the process was democratic. This was perhaps the most social art project I have ever witnessed. Weeks before any actual painting began we went down into the communities as a team to initiate dialogue with the community members. If this was going to be a social art intervention project we owed it to these people to get them as involved as possible. We found out many things in our expeditions including the essence of what these people wanted their space to look like, it was public after all. Democratic art indeed. It was even more fitting that the disciplined group of young men who had started a small farm in their backyard, were the caretakers of the warehouse. These men had various skills and were very devout keepers of the Rastafari faith. They were admirable and proved to be the last missing element to our operation. They prepared lunch for the paint crew every other day and have been a great help to the project so far.
In the coming days I suspect more magic will manifest from this project. It isn’t merely a singular effort, it is a crusade, to set the art and people free so that we can heal ourselves. We cannot deny the energies and forces that are moving in this time, conscious waves are resonating throughout the earth. These waves are resonating especially in Jamaia, in the form of a renaissance, a revival or whichever word might be politically correct to call it. Paint Jamaica is undoubtedly apart of this energy.
Remember to check out the Paint Jamaica page for live updates about the project. Also take a look at, The Paint Jamaica Excursions; Signs and Symbols in the Inner Cities
Photo credit: Jik Photography & Marianna Farag