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Looking to our true Caribbean history

Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, winner of the 2012 Aaron Matalon Award from the National Gallery of Jamaica.

For Jamaican artist Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, being awarded the 2012 Aaron Matalon Award from the National Gallery of Jamaica last month was humbling. 


The jeweller and sculptor, who resided in T&T for the past 13 years, was given the award for her outstanding contribution to the gallery’s biennial exhibit. Girvan presented two pieces for the exhibit—Dreaming Backwards, a wall assemblage installation, and Occupy (Alchemy of Promise), a free-standing sculpture. 


During an interview in her tiny blue and gray studio showroom, Girvan shared that she was honoured to have been included in the show with other hardworking artists. She has occupied this space at Building 7 in the Fernandes Industrial Centre for all of the 13 years she’s lived in T&T. Girvan was one of the first tenants when the arts centre Contemporary Caribbean Arts 7 (CCA7) opened at Building 7 in 2000. Girvan said CCA7 was her introduction to the T&T art scene and provided an opportunity for strong regional artistic dialogue. 


Large pieces of antique furniture fill the corners while salvaged fretwork adorns the walls. One of the pieces mixes the old with the new and is a piece from her 2008 exhibit Gems in our Midst. Attached to the fretwork is plexiglass with quotes from noted Caribbean writers such as Derek Walcott. Reading is part of Girvan’s artistic process and a source of inspiration for her work. Dreaming Backwards was inspired by an Octavio Paz poem The Broken Waterjar. 


“Dreaming Backwards is about reflecting on our history and our past and using it as a compass for the way forward because until we understand where we are coming from I don’t see how we can forge a way forward.” 


The two pieces are the first in a series that will be showcased in December at Y Art Gallery. Girvan is not sure what exactly she will create between now and December, but she wants to tackle the rewriting of history. 


“I want to emphasise the things I think need reconsideration. Up until now the history that we as Caribbean people have embraced is a history that has been written for us and offered to us as fact, but they are not facts.” 


One of the pieces that may be included in Girvan’s upcoming exhibit is a charm bracelet. Made with red string and silver, the charms include a Hindu Om sign, the dates 1804 and 1959 for the Haitian and Cuban revolutions, respectively, and a cross or “x” symbol which represents both religious iconography and the “X” in Malcolm X.


To find out more about Girvan, you can visit her Web site:


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