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white and translucent glass beads, thread, concrete base

16 in. wide x 11 in. deep x 14 in. high



sharl smith_exhibiton_may 2022-34.jpg

Spirit, a cascading sculpture made from white and clear beads, is a reflection on the jubilant and enduring spark of African diasporic traditions and peoples. Despite colonial efforts to whitewash and Christianize Jamaica, the cultural influence of Myal, Obeah, Kumina and other traditions still shine brightly. With this work, I pay homage to the essential spark passed down through these traditions—enlivened by the Jamaican Revivalism movement in the post-abolition 1860s— and recognize the deep well of power available to us when we embrace suppressed aspects of our identity, independent of the prevailing global culture of white supremacy. The title, Spirit, plays with the dual meaning of the word, referencing both the ancestors with whom the Revivalists would joyfully commune and the idea of an intangible and eternal driving force. 

While still frequently demonized by the Jamaican Christian majority, these African spiritual practices, often rooted in dance and music, remain hugely influential in Jamaican arts and culture. The flow of this work is based on a joyful and communal Revivalist ritual rhythmic movement that later became absorbed into contemporary Jamaican dance. As a child, I would see the women who practiced these rituals move in tandem towards their place of worship. The colour and movement of Spirit is inspired by the beauty and mysterious power these women seemed to exude in their gleaming white dresses and turbans.

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