Elephant and Castle, London – A heightened sense of national pride was felt by more than 250 UK-Jamaicans who attended the official opening of a photographic exhibition at the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre in London yesterday (July 24).
Mounted by the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) Foundation, “Interpretations: The Jamaican Experience – A look into our journey over the last 50 years,” is a retrospective collection in celebration of Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary of political Independence from Britain.
Paulette Simpson, Senior Manager, Corporate Affairs and Public Policy for JNBS, who chaired the event, says the month-long display is being held under the Jamaica 50 and Meet Jamaica events.
The joint photographic collection features works by rural high school students in the JNBS Foundation’s advocacy through photography programme, Resolution Project, and celebrated UK-Jamaican photographer, Neil Kenlock.
Several high-ranking UK-Jamaican officials shared in the opening. Among them were Jamaican-born Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Chaplain to Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth; Councillor Althea Smith, Mayor of Southwark and Dianne Abbott, Labour Party Member of Parliament and the first black woman to be elected to the House of Commons. They joined Saffrey Brown, General Manager, JNBS Foundation and Leesa Kow, General Manager of JN Money Services Limited in cutting the ribbon to officially open the exhibition.
Miss Kow said that Kenlock’s fifty interpretive pieces chronicle the journey of Jamaican migrants to the UK during the 1960s and 1970s, and visually represent the struggles and triumphs of Jamaicans in their adopted country, while the student images celebrate the best of Jamaica today from a youth perspective.
She added that the history of Jamaica and the United Kingdom has been intrinsically linked for more than three centuries; therefore, the exhibition was an important avenue through the “umbilical cords of mutual friendship can foster collaborative approaches in the building of nations and social capital.”
Visitors at the event were noticeably nostalgic. Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin affirmed that “the display of wonderful pieces depict parts of my story. Our shared stories must be shared with our children.”
Her sentiments are shared by celebrated UK Jamaican photographer and archivist, Charlie Phillips, who said “This exhibition is well overdue. Our history and culture is being suppressed here. I’m glad that JN has taken up the cause, and it is a meaningful way to celebrate our 50th year of Independence.”
Guest Denese Gasche commented that “the student work was remarkable. I was particularly impressed by their ability to capture ‘the human moment’ in their photos. My children have never been to Jamaica. I was able to tell them about my childhood through some of the photos in the exhibit.”
Others visitors pointed to the need for more frequent exhibitions showcasing the rich culture of Jamaica. Stefan Trevor maintained that the exhibition is “both wonderful and informative.”
Brian Haynes (right) makes a point about preserving Jamaican culture to Devon Hanson (left), Principal, Walworth Academy and his colleague Theresa Williams Swaby at the official opening of ‘Interpretations’, held at the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre on Tuesday, July 24.
“We need things like this to remember”, Kevin Walker said, while Yasmin Williams asserted that the photographs “make me proud to be Jamaican.”
Other guests at the opening event included Neil Kenlock’s wife Judith and daughters Ellice and Emilia; celebrated Jamaican actress, Lavern Archer; Emma Campbell; UK Jamaican photographer, Yvonne Ils; Yvonne Wilks of the RJR Communications Group; Ingrid Brown of The Jamaica Observer; Leon Hamilton, Chief UK Representative, JNBS; Marie Stewart, Senior Manager for Research and PR, JNBS and Paulette Sterling, Senior Operations Manager for JN Money Transfer in the UK.
Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Chaplain to Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth guides her husband through images taken by Jamaican students at the official launch of ‘Interpretations’ at the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre.
The exhibition runs Mondays through Saturdays, between noon and 7:00 p.m.; and will close on August 15.