Essays in this section:
history consists of a series of styles and movements reflecting the
social and political conditions of the period.
The art created during a period carries with it the identity
of the culture in which it is created.
Afro-Caribbean art is no exception to this trend.
Its humble beginnings precede the slave trade, primarily in the
form of the art of the native Indian tribes.
The slave period led to minimalist work created, and was followed
by the more profound movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries. The line of creative energy known as Afro-Caribbean
art represents a people who have struggled to find their own identity
while living with the intense influences of various “mother countries.”
art has produced many recognized artists who have depicted the island
through media ranging from sculpture to painting.
The beginnings of this art movement were not easy. During the slave period, art was not a profitable
commodity and therefore was not encouraged by the overseers and plantation
owners. The creation of art was
considered a slothful occupation. The
creation of art hindered efficiency, causing plantation owners to loose
Following slavery, the arts were still not supported although there were many visiting artists to the island who adopted a few locals as apprentices and guides. However, the art of these Europeans were merely that, European. They did not exhibit the quality and character of the island peoples. In her essay, Afro-Caribbean Art: 1914 to Present, Dr. Petrine Eleanor Archer-Straw states:
Jamaican art one will find all of these characteristics of the Afro-Caribbean
art movements. During the early
half of the twentieth century, many Europeans began turning to the
The “spiritual concerns inherited from African art” act as the basis
for the “primitive” movement in
The intuitive approach to art was balanced by the scholarly approach. Included in this movement were those within the island art scene who were creating artwork based upon formal study as well as formal subject matter. These artists primarily consisted of the upper classes that had the resources necessary to study the methods used by the European masters.
resulting from this cultural phenomenon was similar in characteristics. Much of the art was created in the style of
African carvings and drawings. Moreover,
the media used were basic and natural in physicality. During this period, prominent sculptures and
potters emerged, bringing into the national and international limelight
the work of the Jamaican artist that harkened back to the African heritage
and self-image retained throughout slavery.
This artwork would become known as primitive and intuitive. Although primitivism had had an influence on
much of the artwork produced in
involvement of H.D. Molesworth and the
Manley’s artwork embodies the essence of the Afro-Caribbean male. Through her sculpture she took the African figure and adapted it to the medium, creating works that are primarily monolithic and iconic. Where Manley adapted the African figure to the three dimensional, many other artists have chosen to capture the essence of African heritage through the style of painting as well as the subject matter, primarily village scenes, portraits and landscapes. All of these subjects are at the root of African society.
The island’s artists were now, in many cases, being schooled at the institute, and the mentors and lecturers participating there were the islands’ primitives. As a result, the images that were seen began to be very African in their representational style. This idea of Africanism was one that was not lost through the Middle Passage or the numerous years’ slavery existed on the island. Although the practicing of art making was suppressed for much of the beginnings of the island history, the skills eventually began to thrive and finally express the African heritage that laid dormant throughout those early years. This was made possible through the celebration of religious holidays that involved the performance art and acted as the vehicle of preservation of heritage. Although the artists of the early twentieth century movements were not specifically addressing the issues of slavery, they did celebrate the African-ness within their selves through the subject matter. Many of these works consisted of images that glorified the African figure both visually and within the title of the work.
Archer-Straw, Petrine & Robinson, Kim. Jamaican
Art: An overview with focus on fifty artists.
Archer-Straw, Petrine. Afro-Caribbean Art: 1914 to Present. http://www.panmedia.com.jm/art/articles/CaribbeanArt.htm
Archer-Straw, Petrine. Black is Colour: Colour is Race. http://www.panmedia.com.jm/art/articles/BlackisColour.htm
Archer-Straw, Petrine. In Tribute to David Boxer. http://www.panmedia.com.jm/art/articles/DavidBoxer.htm
Archer-Straw, Petrine. Jamaican Art. http://www.panmedia.com.jm/art/articles/JamaicanArt.htm
Archer-Straw, Petrine. Jamaican Art: A Social History. http://www.panmedia.com.jm/art/articles/SocialHistory.htm
 Petrine Archer-Straw, Afro-Caribbean Art: 1914 to Present, http://www.panmedia.com.jm/art/articles/CaribbeanArt.htm
Archer-Straw and Kim Robinson, Jamaican
Art: An overview with focus on fifty artists, (
 Archer-Straw, “Afro-Caribbean Art”
 Archer Straw, Jamaican Art, 6.