Pendulum: Diasporan artists explore identity, power and fantasy Thursday 12 February, 2015

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Identity, power and fantasy. These are common themes emerging for many Diasporan artists with strong perspectives on their heritage, social reality and a radically better future. When Oneika Russell invited me to co-curate an alternative exhibition for her blog, Art: Jamaica,  in response to the Jamaica biennial, I wanted to acknowledge these ideas and the […]


Identity, power and fantasy. These are common themes emerging for many Diasporan artists with strong perspectives on their heritage, social reality and a radically better future. When Oneika Russell invited me to co-curate an alternative exhibition for her blog, Art: Jamaica,  in response to the Jamaica biennial, I wanted to acknowledge these ideas and the artists who have inspired me to evaluate them in my own life.

Russell’s blog, Art: Jamaica, grew out of PBS Art:21 and features interviews, profiles and pieces from  contemporary Caribbean artists.

You can read the curatorial statement below, or simply fast forward to the art. Don’t let us, or anyone, tell you how to take it all in.

Curatorial Statement

Pendulum features international and multi-generational artists of various genres to explore identity, power and fantasy in a world in which their lived experiences and art are not always recognized by leading authorities and institutions in the art world. The recent biennial at Jamaica’s National Gallery can be seen as a mega-exhibition showcasing several local artists to an international crowd made primarily of art critics, galerists and elite enthusiasts. Recently the National Gallery has been on a drive to become more internationally reflective and edgy or ‘contemporary’ in the work it shows. However, there remains an element of exclusivity in their selection. Galerist Nicole Smythe-Johnson posed the question as to who the biennial serves in terms of the artists featured and the artists asking, “Is this about showing ‘local art’ to ‘internationals,’ or showing ‘international art’ to ‘locals’? And to what end?” The question events like biennials seems to always raise is: “Who is on display for whom?” In this sense, Pendulum is a response to the biennial. The artists featured here are primarily self-starters who have built organic followings and a growing online presence. Although most of these artists have participated in physical exhibitions, in keeping with the ways in which they have used the Internet as a strategic tool to connect with and grow their audience, Pendulum is a virtual exhibition.

The works of Pendulum featured artists speak to the lives of the unreconciled; to the passions, dreams, pleasure and pain of those misconstrued and unheard in the art world and society at large. Photographers like Delphine Diallo have made this clear in her artist statement and emphasis on women and people of African descent and mixed heritage in her work. She intends to make her models iconic and classic through an emphasis on portraiture and the inherent timelessness of black and white photography. The artists in Pendulum share an interest in representing their own lived experiences as they relate to broader collective experiences of women and people of African descent. Mixed media artist, Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe, uses installation to explore her Jamaican grandfather’s childhood separation from his mother after her move out of the country. Others are founding members of larger social initiatives like Michael Thompson, graphic designer and creator of the International Reggae Poster Contest, which aims to establish a Reggae Hall of Fame and performance arts center in Kingston to support the creative economy and Jamaican artists. Ivorian artist, Paul Sika, communicates a similar visionary quality through cinematic imagery that combines photography and film-making, to tell thoughtful stories of young African men and women exploring romantic love, joy in the face of struggle and spiritual growth.

In this exhibition, pendulum can be considered a double entendre. The pendulum metaphor is often used to explain the connection between diversity and unity and matter and spirit. In this sense, Pendulum combines artists of various backgrounds and mediums who share common experiences and aims as storytellers. The exhibition can also be seen as a critique of the back and forth nature of a pendulum, referencing how fads go in and out of style. While the perspectives and objectives of National Gallery authorities may change, these artists works are primarily at the effect of external and internal waves and shifts, within themselves and society at large, not solely within the arts scene.
- Kathryn Buford 

The work selected for Pendulum can be seen below.

Delphine Diallo –


Taj Francis –

Michael Thompson –

Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe –

Brianna McCarthy –

Peju Alatise –

Dawn Okoro –

Kenya (Robinson) –

Paul Sika –

Mattahan –

Afua Richardson –

Written by Kathryn Buford; Curated by Kathryn Buford and Oneika Russsell


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