CARIBBEAN FASHION WEEK 2009

Better writers than I have written their praises of Caribbean Fashion Week 2009. Rather than trying to top their reports of all the excellent fashions shown, I will devote my comments to those that impressed me most and in my opinion, stood out above the rest.

For me, the best designs came from Jackie Cohen of Mutamba, whose Afrocentric stylings of hand-dyed cottons and silks draped in flowing cascades of fabric lead me to dub her the “Roberto Cavalli’ of Caribbean fashion. Each year Mutamba presents variations on the essential casual/exotic wardrobe in a variety of fabrics and dress lengths. This year, the swirls of colours and interesting drapes made every dress a must-have.

On the male side of fashion,
Hugh Johnson’s Yardman Style never fails each year to present the kind of male clothing we women wish our men would wear – bright T-shirts with appropriate Black pride messages, a new line of knee-length cargo shorts in several fabrics, plus new hooded windbreakers with short sleeves that doubled as shirts or casual jackets.

Dancehall designer Biggy was shocking as usual with his minimal, bare-as-you-dare fashions, but he always includes one fabulous white shirt and one beautiful, to-die-for long skirt – this time in denim — for shy types like me. Trinidad’s Claudia Pegus’ collection of beige muslin dresses featured strings gathering the fabric in unusual places, and layers to create flounces and volume. Lovely.

Rocking the runway was the Art On The Run experiment by the JTI/EU Fashion Cluster fusing fashion and art into a spectacular collection. Most outstanding was Black River Goddess by Keenia Linton and Peter Evans, which featured ‘stained glass’ wings of copper wire and coloured plastic, and the designs made entirely of discarded juice boxes by Alfred Brissett and Peter Evans.

CFW this year had much to offer patrons in between the runway shows, as the National Indoor Arena venue was packed with booths for designers and sponsors. Among the sponsor giveaways were samples of new Curel lotions and moisturizers, scoops of creamy Haagen Dazs ice creams, bottles of Vitamin Water and plates of Grace instant foods. Eyewear company Eye-Q Optical offered patrons the opportunity to have a professional photo taken wearing their choice of the many beautiful frames on display. Best of all were samples of Amy’s Delicious Natural & Organic Meals, an new American label now represented by Ramsons that lived up to its name with delicious vegetarian soups, pizzas and lasagna.

American superstars Eve and Kelly Rowlands graced the stage with their vibe and energy, Eve wearing diamante-studded platform heels, a short black dress and long blonde hair that outshone every other woman in the house. Local celebs included Cindy Breakespeare, Wine With Me restauranteur Cecile Levee, UWI Professor Carolyn Cooper, and Miss Jamaica 2008 runner-up Rebecca Silvera. Not to be forgotten is the wonderful background music each night, both for the shows but especially entertaining in the intervals, that was splendidly programmed by broadcaster/poet Mutabaruka from his extensive music collection.

PULSE’s Kingsley Cooper, Romae Gordon and Hillary Phillips deserve congratulations for a 10th anniversary staging of CFW that was a fitting celebration.

PIONEER POLICEWOMAN RETIRES

Supt. Ionie Ramsay-Nelson, the pioneering Jamaican woman who became the first motocycle cop and eventually head of the Traffic Division, then the Police information network CCN, retired Thursday, July 18. At a luncheon held in her honour at Kingston’s Medallion Hall Hotel, Senior Superintendant Geneve Bent, now the leading female on the Force, paid tribute to the years of stellar service given the nation by this humble, principled and respected woman.

Making history when she broke the gender barrier to join what what had been till then an exclcusive male job in the Force, Supt. Ramsay-Nelson cut a dashing figure in her uniform and bike, gaining even more respect among the travelling public when she used her intelligence and good speaking skills to bring traffic news to the daily RJR morning show.

Well-known for her philanthropy, Supt. Ramsay collects gifts of food and clothing for distribution to the needy, who call her home at all hours when in need of help. Her close relations with Food For The Poor was emphasized at her retirement luncheon and it is clear that this side of her life will continue, while she sits down to write her biography to leave behind a record and example for future generations of Jamaican women.

NEW BOOKS ON MY SHELF

Souldance, Poems and Writings
by journalist and PR guru Jean Lowrie Chin (Publisher Ian Randle Publishers) attracted me primarily because of the lovely cover illustration of two dreadlocksed black cherubs draped in Red,Gold and Green banners. Jean is not shy to bare her life and her soul in her poems. Two of my favourites are her amusing “My Chinaman Jumped to the Riddim of Jah” that speaks of her Chinese-race husband enjoying his total Jamaican-ness, while ‘Pick Up Time” tells of the joys of collecting her children from school, children adopted from “… those nameless ladies, through whom the good Lord sent my babies.”

Half the book contains poems in both English and Jamaican, while the other half contains selected essays from her years as a newspaper columnist. Jean’s writings began as an Alpha schoolgirl and continue even as she steers the media campaigns of Jamaica’s biggest corporations. This is one of those books worth adding to the collection of Jamaican literature.

I Woman – The Sacred Trust, by Zoe Asher. (Publisher: Trailblazer INK/Creative Links) is a very interesting thesis by this London trained Jamaican Barrister-at-Law who died only weeks after its publication. In it she discusses her view that “Woman must face the fact that her liberation has become the cornerstone of her children’s desolation.”
According to Sister Zoe, the modern habit of women going out to work and becoming breadwinners, has deprived children of the loving mothering presence in the home during their developmental years and caused the crime, violence and sexual gender confusion that are the most serious problems today. She writes that in considering her role as nothing more than cook and cleaner, woman has neglected her true role as mother, providing a safe haven and nurturing presence that builds strong, confident and productive children.

It’s a worthy debate, and one I hope my feminist friends will join after reading this book.

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JAMAICAN OLYMPICS FILM SHORT-LISTED FOR US AWARD

Photo: Triple-Gold Olympic athlete Usain Bolt & Fernando Garcia-Guerata.

“Why Do Jamaicans Run So Fast”, a documentary film first entered in the Reggae Film Festival 2009, has been short-listed as Best Documentary and the only non-American film in this year’s American Black Film Festival.

“I really wanted my film to win a Reggae Film Festival award to show that Jamaicans liked it, before entering it in any other festivals”, says film Director Fernando Garcia-Guereta, But, after sending his entry, the Reggae Film Festival was postponed for financial reasons.

Undeterred, the director felt it was important to get a Jamaican audience’s reaction to his film, so he invited Reggae Film Festival director Barbara Blake Hannah to include the film in Jamaica Film Academy screenings she was hosting at Island Village, Ocho Rios and CPTC Studios, Kingston during the last week of February. The overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from the audiences on both occasions assured Garcia Guereta that Jamaicans loved his documentary.

A recent screening at the opening of the ‘Kingston On The Edge’ art event, confirmed that audience response, as there was laughter throughout the screening and positive comments after.

The film uses footage of the six Jamaican Olympic Gold races, threaded through with reactions from Jamaican crowds watching at home and in the streets, interviews with the track stars themselves, comments from parents, friends, celebrities and sports figures, as well as the man-in-the-street. At the same time the film gives a clue that answers the title question, when it includes a youth track & field competition being held on a Port Antonio field while the Olympics are actually taking place that shows the enthusiasm and interest in athletics that begins at a young age in Jamaica.

Garcia-Guereta has been coming to Jamaica for more than a decade, spending half the year at his Port Antonio home and the other half in Europe where his high-tech company uses state-of-the art cameras to make historic records of such ancient treasures as the Pyramids of Egypt and the treasures of the British Museum. Shirley Hanna, mother of Miss World Lisa Hanna, is co-director with Fernando of Nice Time Productions, a Jamaican film and music company that produced the film. Nice Time Productions is already working on a second Jamaican film, “Hit Me With Music”, a documentary on dancehall.

‘Why Do Jamaicans Run So Fast’ has an extensive sound track of reggae music from the 60s to today, with hits by Elephant Man and Movado (who also appears in the film), as well as Desmond Dekker, the Heptones and Bob Marley. “We wanted the film to be totally Jamaican,” they explain “so we did what was necessary to acquire the right music to accompany the pictures.”

Asked of his hopes for the film winning the Best Documentary award, Garcia-Guerta says: “I’ll be very happy, because it will be like Jamaica winning another Gold medal. Everyone will be glad to see Jamaica win again.”

The film will be screened at Miami Beach – Friday, June 26 – Colony Theater 12:40 PM and Cinematechique, Espanola Way at 10:30 AM.

Photos: (Center) Island Village, Ocho Rios audience
(Bottom – L-R): Shirley Hanna, Angela Patterson, CEO – CPTC; Fernando Garcia-Guerata, director “Why Do Jamaicans Run So Fast”; Barbara Blake Hannah; Perry Cassagnol, Director – “The Forgotten Father” (front) Izyah Thorb, actor.