Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and His Worlds

Cover, Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and His Worlds

Edited by Tim Barringer, Gillian Forrester, and Barbaro Martinez Ruiz

Essays by Stephen Banfield, Kenneth Bilby, Catherine Hall, Stuart Hall, Kay Dian Kriz, Vervene A. Shepherd, Holly Snyder, and Robert Farris Thompson

Published by the Yale Center from British Art in association with Yale University Press

612 pages, 12 x 8 1/2 inches, 499 illustrations, cloth, ISBN 978-0300116618

Publication date: December 5, 2007


This multidisciplinary volume chronicles the iconography of sugar, slavery, and the landscape of Jamaica from the beginning of British rule in 1655 to the aftermath of emancipation in the mid-nineteenth century. It provides new perspectives on art, music, religion, and performance in Jamaican society and highlights the role of artistic culture in the resistance mounted by the enslaved. Through its central figure, Jewish Jamaican artist Isaac Mendes Belisario (1795–1849), the book also offers new insight into the Jewish diaspora in the Caribbean. At the book’s core is Belisario’s remarkable series of lithographs, Sketches of Character (1837–38), the earliest visual representation of the Afro-Jamaican masquerade form Jonkonnu (or John Canoe). Innovative scholarship traces the West and Central African roots of Jonkonnu and its indigenization and transformation in Jamaica from the early eighteenth century through the postemancipation period to the present day. Richly illustrated with printed books, broadsides, manuscripts, prints, drawings, paintings, costumes, and musical instruments, Art and Emancipation in Jamaica presents a unique portrait of Jamaican life at a pivotal historical moment. Balancing the specificity of Jamaican socioeconomic and cultural forms with larger questions about the globalizing impact of imperialism, this groundbreaking work provides a new interdisciplinary model for interpreting the visual culture of empire.


Honorable Mention for the 2008 American Association of Museum Publications for Design

2009 Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Award given by the College Art Association

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