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Cultural Series to Celebrate Four Jamaican Women

Photo: JIS Photographer

Late folklorist, author, musician and actress, Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley.

A new cultural series celebrating the legacies of four Jamaican women will be held at the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ), downtown Kingston, on March 11 and 18.

The events will begin at 2:00 p.m. both days, and are free of cost.

The series, titled ‘Four Women’, reflects on the lives and works of folklorist, author, musician and actress, Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley; writer and activist, Una Marson; opera singer, Mercedes Kirkwood; and sculptor, Hon. Edna Manley.

Organised by the Jamaica Music Museum in association with the National Library of Jamaica (NLJ), the cultural presentations are in commemoration of Women’s History Month in March.

They will involve discussion sessions with Poet Laureate of Jamaica, Lorna Goodison; Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Llewellyn; writer and poet, Rachel Manley; and Associate Curate and Research Officer at the IOJ, Shari Williams.

Each event will feature musical and dramatic performances by women as well as displays by women-led businesses. The NLJ will launch an exhibition showcasing the legacies of the four cultural icons and their contributions to national development.

Director-Curator of the Jamaica Music Museum, Herbie Miller, said it is important to highlight the four women, particularly Una Marson and Mercedes Kirkwood, who are “not so well-known”.

He noted that Una Marson was a poet, editor and playwright and brought attention to race and class through her work. Born in St Elizabeth in 1905, Una Marson was the first black female employee of the BBC.

“She broke down race barriers at the BBC, opened barriers and opened doors for people like Louise Bennett, Charles Hyatt, Andrew Salkey, among others,” Mr. Miller said.

Mercedes Kirkwood was an outstanding opera singer, who sang at the Royal Albert Hall, a concert hall in London; and the Ward Theatre in Kingston. She was born in Del Rio, Cuba, and started singing at the age of three years. She relocated to Jamaica and attended the Jamaica School of Music, where it was discovered she had a stunning voice for opera.

After spending some time in Jamaica, she migrated to the United Kingdom, and furthered her career in operatic theatre for some 16 years.

Mr. Miller said the Institute will be highlighting other outstanding Jamaican women in the future.

“There are so many others that we hope over the years we will come to highlight. This is not a one-off,” he pointed out.

Mr. Miller urged citizens, especially young persons, to attend the events.

“We are really trying to reach out to our young people, so they understand on whose shoulder they are standing… to understand class and race and identity and how to understand the politics and the social dynamics of this country we call Jamaica,” he said.


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