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The Institute of Jamaica – Rastafari: Unconquerable!

Rastafari exhibition in Jamaica

On July 21st, the Institute of Jamaica opened an historic exhibition entitled, Rastafari: Unconquerable! It is the first exhibition in Jamaica on the Rastas and as soon as I heard about it, I knew I had to see it.

Rastafari exhibition in Jamaica

Entrance to the exhibition

During the ride to the museum, I thought several times of One Love: Discovering Rastafari, the first exhibition on the Rastas that I had seen at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. I was excited to see that Rastafari, the small movement that began in Jamaica in the late 1930s and has since spread worldwide, was finally getting consideration and scholarship. Discovering Rastafari, which ran from November 2007 to November 2011, left me wondering if that was all there was. I hoped the current show would be the definitive study on Rasta.

Rastafari exhibition, Jamaica

Rastafari: Unconquerable!

Rasta exhibition, Institute of Jamaica

Artwork from Rastafari: Unconquerable!

Undoubtedly larger in space and scope, Rastafari: Unconquerable tells the story of the birth and evolution of Rasta through videos, installations, artefacts and personal stories. It covers several watershed moments in the history of the movement in segments organized around themes such as Revelation of Rastafari, its Philosophy and Evolution, and the 1966 visit to Jamaica of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I. It also features a review of the attempts at suppression of the movement by Jamaican authorities, by far one of the most appalling periods in our history.

Rastafari Exhibition, Marcus Garvey

Marcus Garvey

Rastafari Visionaries

Visionaries

Rastafari Exhibition

Haile Selassie in Jamaica, 1966

Rastafari has come a long way since Lionel Howell, the first Rasta, founded Pinnacle, the home he established for his followers, and Marcus Garvey advised the poor and downtrodden to look to Africa for the crowning of a black king who would deliver them out of poverty.  It’s exciting to see the museum finally undertaking this important step in recognizing Rasta’s influence on the society, and their presence in the world.

Rastafari exhibition

Haile Selassie

One thing that struck me about the exhibition was its stillness, its flatness. It was as if the breath, power, vitality and passion that pulses through Rastafari could not, as the title suggests, be conquered even in this exhibition that celebrates Rastafari; the Movement which grew out of struggle, with larger than life visionaries who fought against the system, could not be tamed. Still, it’s an excellent first exhibition, a must see.

Rastafari: Unconquerable remains on view at the Institute of Jamaica, 10-16 East Street, Kingston. 876-922-0620, Admission $5

 

FoodieTuesday: Passion Fruit Drink

Whole passion fruit

The passion fruit is a round yellow (or purple) fruit with a very distinctive flavor. It is used in juices, ice cream, pastries and even syrup.

The yellow passion fruit is quite common in Jamaica and is usually found growing on vines in backyard gardens.

 

Whole passion fruit

Fruit

I was at my uncle’s home a few years ago when he asked if I’d like something to eat. I figured he’d buy us a meal so I was surprised when I heard the unmistakable sounds of pots and pans coming from his kitchen.

“You said you wanted something to eat,” he said, when I asked what he was doing, “I’m making us lunch.”

He noticed the look of shock on my face and burst out laughing.

“You think I can’t cook,” he said, still smiling.

When I offered to help, he shooed me out of the kitchen.

“I’ve been cooking since before you were born,” he added, chuckling.

Half of a passionfruit

Fruit

That did nothing to boost my confidence. I never knew Uncle Norris, the baby of the family, to cook. Whenever he came to our house, he’d head straight to the refrigerator for something to drink. If we didn’t have lemonade, his favorite, he’d call me to make him some. I was maybe 8 or 9 and hated having my playtime interrupted.

By now the smell of curry was wafting through the living room.

“What are you making?” I called out.

“Mind your own business,” he replied. “I said I’d make you lunch and I’m making you lunch.”

When I heard the whirring of the blender, I became even more curious. What could he be making now, I wondered.

I couldn’t believe the meal he’d whipped up. It was the most delicious curried chicken I’d eaten in a while. But it was the passion fruit drink that accompanied it that still has me talking almost four years later.

The slightly tangy taste of the passion fruit was the perfect accompaniment to the bold flavor of the curried chicken. It was so refreshing, I poured another glass.

How to Make Passion Fruit Drink

Ingredients

4-6 Passion fruits

Water

Sugar to taste

Directions

Cut passion fruit in half, scoop the flesh into a blender. Add water and sugar to taste. Blend until smooth. Strain. Serve chilled or over ice.

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The Smelly Starfish Flower

Carrion Flower

I saw the starfish flower for the first time a few years ago in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. I didn’t know its name and everyone I showed the photo to, shook their heads. They didn’t know either. All I knew for sure was that the stems made me think it had to be from the cactus family. I also knew that I was intrigued by the shape and squiggly lines.

Open Carrion Plant

Carrion Plant

A few weeks ago, I was visiting a friend. As we sipped lemonade and chatted on her verandah, she stopped mid sentence, “Smell that?” she asked, furrowing her brow.

“No. What?”

“There, don’t you see it?”

I looked in the direction she’d pointed, the place she insisted the odor was coming from. But all I saw was lush, green foliage. Nothing seemed out of place or able to produce the foul smell she alluded to. I didn’t see or smell anything offensive and told her so. But it didn’t seem to reassure her.

“Don’t you see that yellow flower, the one that looks like a large star?”

By now I could hear tension creeping into her voice. I felt at any moment, she’d spring from her seat to seek out the odor that was preventing her from enjoying her lemonade.

Later, as I was leaving, as if to vindicate herself, she pointed out the plant. Even though I was now closer, I still couldn’t smell it but I recognized it as the same one I had admired and had been unable to identify years earlier. When I asked, she said it was the starfish flower.

The starfish is a variety of carrion flower. These flowers produce a putrid odor, probably from the insects that pollinate them, that some say is similar to rotting flesh.  I’m not sure why I didn’t smell it. I also wondered why my friend had it in her garden if she didn’t like the smell. Maybe, I though as I walked through her gate, its beauty makes up for its smell – sometimes.

 

This post is linked to Travel Photo Discovery’s Travel Photo Mondays. Be sure to head over and check out other photos from around the world.

The Rhumba Box

Rhumba box, Jamaica

While waiting in the immigration line at the Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay a few years ago, I heard the unmistakable sound of a mento band. They were playing a familiar tune, Take Her to Jamaica, and as I waited, I tapped my feet lightly and hummed along.

The singing got louder as I exited immigration on my way to pick up my luggage from the carousel. By now, I could see the musicians – three or four of them. One was playing a rhumba box, a percussion instrument that I hadn’t seen in years.

Rhumba box, Jamaica

Rhumba box

The rhumba box is a two foot square wooden box. It has a hole in the center to which is attached five metal strips that are tuned to different pitches. At that size, it’s also a seat for the musician and allows him to reach the metal keys.

The rhumba box originated from the African mbira, or thumb piano. It made its way to Cuba, where it’s called the marímbola, then to other countries. In Jamaica, it’s synonymous with mento, the folk music that is a precursor to ska and reggae.

Sitting on the rhumba box, he strummed the metal strips to hold the rhythm for the guitar and the maracas players as they belted out the words to another song, This Long Time Gal.

I watched many stoic faces relax and smile as they heard the music. I was still humming to myself as I walked out of the airport.

Click here to listen to the sound of the rhumba box and here to hear a mento version of Amy Winehouse’s Rehab by the Jolly Boys.

 

I’m linking this post to the weekly photo linkup, Travel Photo Thursday, at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out other photos from locations around the world. Enjoy!