Students discover there’s much more to Jamaica than palm trees and reggae

Students discover there’s much more to Jamaica than palm trees and reggae

Street in Jamaica

There’s nothing quite as inspirational as visiting an exotic land to soak up the beauty, culture and uniqueness of a new environment – that’s something students who took part in a life-changing trip to Jamaica recently discovered. Through an International Travel Bursary, Liverpool School of Art and Design students were given the opportunity to experience the art and culture of the Caribbean island known for its sun, sand and laid back lifestyle.

The students were encouraged to explore their creativity with free rein of all the facilities and a dedicated private studio at LJMU’s partner institution, Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston. Dr Emma Roberts, LJMU’s Programme Leader for BA (Hons) History of Art and Museum Studies, arranged for the students to meet artists and take in a number of sites across the country in order to properly immerse themselves in the culture. Emma explains, “The immersion into such a different culture was exciting and highly stimulating. There was a diversity of colourful and interesting architecture all around us; the hot weather and new plants, animals and scenery was inspiring and even the unusual food or idiosyncratic shop signage acted to get visual ideas flowing.”

“Jamaica has a very historic art scene that is also extremely lively today. Their art is intellectual, grounded in theory and alert to politics and social issues – this seriousness makes it an ideal location for LJMU art students to develop their practises.”
– Dr Emma Roberts, Programme Leader for BA History of Art and Museum Studies

And did the sights and sounds of Jamaica give students a creativity boost? We caught up with Chris Martin and Maria Matache to find out about their experiences.

Chris Martin, BA (Hons) Graphic Design and Illustration

Chris was keen to travel to Jamaica partly because of his love of reggae and dub music. And so being able to visit the Peter Tosh Museum and experience reggae in its country of origin was a major highlight of his trip. Another highlight was meeting one of the country’s most important artists, creator of the Emancipation Park sculptures, Laura Facey.

Laura Facey in Jamaica

Laura Facey, one of Jamaica's most important artists, invited students to her home to view her artwork.

“She was incredibly inspiring both artistically and personally. The experience showed me how life as a creator/artist is so closely tied to community and people. Her work heavily involves both local and international communities, bringing together the two. Meeting Laura showed me how my personal and professional life can be pretty much the same thing – I will always take this with me.”

As a maker of clothing, Chris aims to ensure his creations have a positive impact through charity, organic materials and message. Visiting Jamaica helped confirm these values and ideals. He also realised his ambitions to make travel a permanent lifestyle.

Sign in Jamaica“I am trying to become a ‘digital nomad’, which basically means travel the world and work from your laptop. This trip helped massively with this ambition as I found my ability to think and create while travelling came much more naturally in response to my experiences.”

Jamaica certainly made a lasting impression on Chris, not just because of its outstanding beauty and unique culture but also the way of life of its island inhabitants.

“As a place it is incredible: vibrant colours, lots of wild fruits, amazing scenery, great people and a huge history book. As a society, the biggest difference to a western country is their relationship with money and success, not everyone, but a lot of people paint life and work with the same brush – the rat race of western countries does not interest a lot of people. I think their work-life balance is a lot better than ours (with plenty of exceptions).”

Maria Matache, BA (Hons) Architecture

Maria’s travel journal is fairly worn as she’s visited a number of destinations across Europe. But venturing beyond the continent remained unchecked on her bucket list. So when the opportunity to visit Jamaica came about, she couldn’t wait to start her Caribbean adventure.

“When I was a child, I used to watch Travel Channel and dream of the lives of people on the warm islands of the world – I think they have a special state of mind and a rhythm of life. I wanted to be able to embrace and be part of this story at least for a short time.”

LJMU students at coffee producers

Students sample a cup of coffee produced by the Blue Mountain Coffee Estate during a tour of the plantation.

And did Jamaica live up to Maria’s expectations?

“Jamaica is colourful, contrasting and intrusive, but in the good sense of the word; a place where you arrive full of prejudices, but you come back healed. A place where you discover yourself because it takes you so much out of your comfort zone. A corner of paradise where, in places, time has forgotten to exist. A living place with spiritual people who see deeper than everyday things.”

Like Chris, meeting Laura Facey was the most memorable part of Maria’s Jamaican story:

“This strong woman, her place and that moment, have given me so many revelations and so many confirmations, I strongly believe that day has changed my life forever. I believe that every journey you take, no matter how close or far it is, is actually a journey within yourself because if you allow yourself to be open you will be changed irremediably. But this change is usually a long-term one, you rarely have the chance to feel and understand in real-time what’s going on with you. The moment I found a book about Brancusi (one of the most appreciated Romanian artists) in Laura’s library, I realised that I was on the right way, in my mind there was light.”

Maria plans to see the world and hopes that Jamaica was only the beginning. She figures she’ll need to travel the world in order to become the great architect she aspires to be.

“I had so many fears before leaving for Jamaica, today I believe I could travel alone to the end of the world!”

Students who visited Jamaica were recipients of the APSS Faculty International Travel Bursary which has been running since 2015. Previous destinations have included Chongqing in China, Aarhus in Denmark and Frosinone in Italy. Auckland, New Zealand is the anticipated destination for next year. All LJMU students are encouraged to travel via our go abroad opportunities – find out about the options available.

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