A Bold Decision

'My fears have gone away in Babylon'- Judgement Day Raging Fyah

Raging Fyah's Judgement day plays while I attempt to introduce writing as another dimension of HeavyMannaz, most poetic.

I found it important to begin writing about this journey creating HeavyMannaz and divulge in the deeper conceptual framework that governs the aesthetic of these commodities. 

Formalities. 'Let mi Introduce miself'

I am Khristina Godfrey, a mind of creative thoughts and creative director and designer for HeavyMannaz. HeavyMannaz is a brand that creates limited edition bags with imagery of Jamaica’s urban landscape from 70s and 80s. I consider myself a multidisciplinary creative, using mediums that challenges the process and in the interim inform the process. I also freelance, as a creative director and photographer.  

During my four (4) year tenure at Edna Manley College School of Visual and Performing Arts (Edna Manley College), my projects began to more or less shift around socio-political issues. I enjoyed using projects as a tool in educating my own mind. Researching informed the process of my aesthetic language in my years at Edna Manley College.  
It is no secret that Jamaica’s culture is dynamic and quite interesting. In my third year I started leveraging these childhood memories by deconstructing the cultural identities that make the visual narratives truly dynamic.

 Coral Gardens 1964 piece created in third Year at Edna Manley College School of Visual and Performing Arts by Khristina Godfrey

Coral Gardens 1964 piece created in third Year at Edna Manley College School of Visual and Performing Arts by Khristina Godfrey

My first set of course works revolved Rasta and Coral Gardens 1964, Tivoli Incursion 2010 and urban landscapes, and 1991 film The Lunatic and Negrophilia- Rent a Dread Culture. Coral Gardens and The Tivoli incursions were interesting subject areas that sparked my interest in aestheticizing the correlation between politics and violence in Jamaica. 

Aesthetics of Violence and its correlation to 'realpolitiks' in Jamaica.

A 90s baby growing up with the ‘big back tube’ my first recollection of Jamaica’s urban culture was through film. I vaguely remembered being sneaked into the drive through movie theatre to watch ‘Dancehall Queen’ 1997. Through these Jamaican films I was sensitized to a certain urban aesthetic. Our Jamaican films tend to have similar raw and gritty plots, use of language, movements, politics, highly sexualized and romanticized violence. I found it interesting how Visual art and movies depicted how politics and violence overlapped in our urban narratives. My first State of Emergency experience - The Tivoli incursion informed my starting point for the research as a young Jamaican deconstructing the origins of the grits in our culture. In 2010 whilst at Wolmer's Trust High school for girls the incursion was always the talk of the town and i remembered older generations repetitively saying “A long time diss a gwan’. I often wondered what was the origin of the violence unique to Jamaica, whats the origin of our posse's?

'Everybody get flat'

Let's be frank, all acts of violence is not related to politics. However, i found it interesting that large accounts of violence spewed out of the mid to late 1970s during the emergence of political parties Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and People's Nations Party (PNP). A paradigm shift, is noticeable once Green and Orange became of importance to the Society. One of the first aesthetic language, a signifier that starts to give colour to the visual cultural language. 

Here’s an interview excerpt with NattyDread from Laurie Gunst’s Novel 'Born Fi' Dead'

 “The gang bizness did not come from nothing,… and you mus’ 
understand that this violence passed through many stages. When I was a young mon comin’ up, we used to throw bottles to break up the other party’s meetings.” 

Colour conscious
Being loyal to Green or Orange stood for more than colour. Colour was associated with a party, a leader, a garrison, an area leader with a gun defending his territory, a spew of violence. A chain reaction to a colour. Gunst interviewees recalls men in bars refusing to drink a Heineken if he supported PNP and vice versa a man who supported JLP would not be caught dead with a red stripe. I thought ‘What a hilarious time’, none the less informs our culture today. These ideologies dipped in loyalty had to be maintained. It was your inheritance, a vicious cycle that dictated a house hold within a particular era regardless of separation by a lane, a zinc. The romanticizing of fathers and sons who became leaders- Dons and Don Gaddas.

The whispered link between political leaders and community garrisons, Strongholds. A poetic notion that we have familiarized our culture with, A strong hold.

Many of these garrisons with these powerful area leaders became somewhat robin hood characters. Their names, another aesthetic, that had some connotation to war torn cities across the world such as Tel Aviv or western films names such as Trinity.

 Jimmy Cliff as Ivanhoe Martin lead role in ‘Harder they come’ 1972 film directed and produced by Perry Henzel

Jimmy Cliff as Ivanhoe Martin lead role in ‘Harder they come’ 1972 film directed and produced by Perry Henzel

'Harder they Come' starring Jimmy Cliff 1972, a film aided in visualizing the integral role of western films. Its impact on the development of aliases that many Dons and police adapted. The iconic image of Jimmy Cliff with 38 revolvers epitomized the culture of Jamaican badman in the 70s.

A prime example of aestheticizing violence of the time. The portrayal of 'badmanism' in Jamaica culture, a crucial component in the development of Jimmy Cliff's character. His character's attire was a depiction of this ‘badness’ itself, a crossbreed of western and mafia style. His vest, shoes and pants on the iconic poster/ photograph is classic buckaroo accessories associated with the buckaroo cowboys in a genre of Spaghetti Western films. The ‘buckas’ or the ‘badman cap’ are both derivative of the mafia style.  The photograph articulated the influence that Gunst discussed in the novel, about the power relation between the gun and authority. An ideology derivative of what is culturally known as 'badness'. In addition to this ideology, the influence especially of spaghetti westerns in the 70s which gives visual impression of rugged individualism and iconography for badman. The poster introduces a shift in the geo-political spacing as elements from urban Jamaican aesthetics are super-imposed in contrast to the North American frontier landscape. The stance of the character from the poster is similar to the characters in the western gun fight or draw. The exaggerated buckled-kneed stance resonates rather as someone that lacks skill in gun fighting unlike the figure’s stance. The famous imagery of The Harder They Come advertisement placed in the Daily Gleaner, was an image that depicted the era.

Heavy Heavy, became an understatement unfolding the aesthetics of an underground culture of violence. Questioned my morality multiple times, trying to decipher between the robin hood of the community or murderer threatened by the man over the zinc. 

The work with each collage is an interesting puzzle piece in the larger story line in the underground culture. My work is a creative process that deconstructs an urban language, it is informed by the grittiness, innovation and raw expression of the dynamic cultural spaces. This is my first submission to document the process as I divulge in more interesting items such as old campaigns ADs, conflicting nature of Dons in relation to community, politics leaders representation, representation in the newspaper and use of religion. I will also be sharing my journey as a young artist navigating the creative industry in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

What a sinting!

 Khristina Godfrey smiles in-front of one of her pieces exhibited in her 2015 Final Year exhibition at Edna Manley School of Visual and Performing Arts.

Khristina Godfrey smiles in-front of one of her pieces exhibited in her 2015 Final Year exhibition at Edna Manley School of Visual and Performing Arts.