Women fest for Jamaica

Observer senior reporter

Thursday, January 18, 2018

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A new event — The Voice of A Woman Festival Jamaica — is set to kick off at Carib 5 in St Andrew, on Saturday, January 27.

The two-day occasion was conceptualised by British director and activist Maureen Bryan and was first held in the United Kingdom in 2009. It will feature the works of women in music, the arts, and film, while exploring the status of females in support of a campaign to end violence against them.

“The festival comes at a particularly important time internationally, as the global conversation centres on gender. In addition to showing great works by artists and filmmakers, there will be panel discussions and speakers exploring the current climate for women and girls in Jamaica. Proceeds from the festival go to support the work of the Jamaican charity, Woman Inc,” said Bryan.

She told the Jamaica Observer that in her experience, there is a real dearth of stories which speak from women's point of view in the world of the creative arts.

''If the arts is to be a mirror image of society, then the discussion taking place is obviously one-sided and there is need for a space for women and their issues to be heard. At the time when I started, I was the only organisation or festival giving a voice to creative women from all over the world and providing an opportunity for women who had no voice to be heard and ultimately bring about awareness.”

“I have decided to bring the festival to Jamaica as I am of Jamaican descent and very concerned about the reports of violence here. What has happened? Why is the rate climbing... particularly against women and girls. Rape, incest, and paedophilia are so not the nature of the Jamaican people. These issues need to be dealt with and there couldn't be a more opportune time, given the global climate,” said Bryan.

The festival's feature presentation will be the Jamaican premiere of the documentary feature film Grace Jones: Bloodlight & Bami. This work focuses on the life of the Jamaican-born model and entertainer Grace Jones, which was filmed, in large part, in Jamaica. To date, the film has premiered in London and Toronto and is yet to premiere or be released in the United States — the US premiere is scheduled for later this year.

For Bryan, Jones's film was chosen as it provides a strong model for women who face various types of abuse to break through and find a means to what is possible. Jones will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Voice of A Woman Festival Jamaica will also provide a fellowship for US-based Jamaican actress Jozanne Marie, whose one-woman play about her youth and her work to transform tragedy into triumph, is being developed into a programme to be used in schools in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.

Following the opening event at Carib 5, the festival moves to the Cove Theatre in Ocho Rios featuring works and conversations with a variety of women filmmakers and artists, including artist Laura Facey. The screening of a documentary film on her life and work titled Paddlin Spirit will follow a conversation with her about her work.

The impact of Queen Ifrica's Daddy Don't Touch Me There will be explored.

Among the films being screened at this all-day event are This City of Mine, Cleaning House, Proscenium, Sugar, and That Night.

“In addition to exploring the works of women filmmakers, musicians and artists, we dig deep into conversations exploring the status of women and girls in Jamaica with scholars, activists, advocates and leaders, examining the factors that keep violence against women and girls, and try to find the ways that we can transform things for generations to come,” said Bryan.

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