Organized to commemorate the bicentenary of the abolition of the British slave trade, Art & Emancipation in Jamaica is the first exhibition to focus exclusively on the visual culture of slavery and emancipation in Jamaica. 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 for the first time are drawings and prints depicting life on a Jamaican sugar plantation, and images used by the anti-slavery campaign.
At the center of the exhibition is the lithographic series Sketches of Character, In Illustration of the Habits, Occupation, and Costume of the Negro Population in the Island of Jamaica, made by the Jewish Jamaican-born artist Isaac Mendes Belisario. Published in Jamaica 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.
In addition, the show features Jamaican and West African costumes and musical instruments, accompanied by video footage of historic and contemporary performances, as well as a specially commissioned sound track. The exhibition concludes with work by contemporary Jamaican and Afro-Caribbean artists investigating the complex legacy of slavery and emancipation.
Yale Center for British Art Web Site