Rex Nettleford Arts Conference opens with a spoken word festival

Rex Nettleford Arts Conference 2019 Flyer
Rex Nettleford Arts Conference 2019 Flyer

Kingston, Jamaica – October 2, 2019 – The Rex Nettleford Arts Conference continues to deliver a one of a kind experience with exceptional performances, lecture-demonstrations, exhibitions and a culturally appropriate opening. With consideration for the fact that the year 2019 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Hon. Louise Bennett Coverley, OJ, Jamaica’s icon of the Spoken Word, and the 100th anniversary of Jamaican born, Claude McKay’s veritable anthem, ‘If We Must Die’, the college opens the conference with a spoken Word Festival on Wednesday, October 9, 2019 beginning at 1:00 pm.

The spoken word festival will acknowledge the 100th anniversary of Marcus Garvey’s UNIA, and has been dubbed largely through Ghana’s outward reach, ‘The Year of Return’ – itself echoing Garvey’s call for repatriation, with its global invitation to diaspora Africans to return home some 400 years after that fateful departure. All of this is happening at the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution, an era that is exploiting and expanding the impact advances in modern technology and digitization might have in our lives, and in unprecedented ways. While spoken word as an artform  gained currency in the 1980s as part of the so-called “post-modern” art movement in North America, it has its roots in the oral traditions of ancient African cultures and carries the elements of call and response, distinctive rhythms, word mastery and the combined intention of education, entertainment and community building.

In style spoken word is clearly kin to dub poetry, birthed here in Jamaica and umbilically linked at the Edna Manley College’s ‘Tree of Life’ and so the festival will take its shape and pay homage to these energies and events by placing technology in a call and response conversation with tradition. It will foreground in film (still a critical medium for entertainment and information dissemination in this fourth industrial revolution) the noble contributions to Jamaica, the Caribbean and the world, made by these honorees. This will be complemented by poetry offerings from some of the most dynamic and important poets of our time and space; essentially marking the moment, by grounding with griots!

The evening will seamlessly flow into the Opening Ceremony through movements from the play Shango – directed by Dean of the School of Drama, Marvin George with African American poet Jericho Brown giving the keynote address.

The conference proceedings will continue Thursday and Friday October 10 and 11, respectively with plenaries, workshops and three special exhibitions including the School of Visual Arts New York which showcases the work of the college displayed in the New York subways for the last  and closing with the outstanding works of graduates of the School of Drama – Samantha Thompson’s Beauty and the Plus Sized Beast and Rejeave Mattis’s “Phobia”.

The Biennial Rex Nettleford Arts Conference runs from October 9-11, 2019 under the theme ‘The Arts: Intercultural and Cross-Cultural Exchanges’. The conference aims to examine the ways in which the arts are implicated in the health and sustainability of our education systems, economies and societies and position the arts as central to the innovative capacity required to champion development locally, regionally and globally.

The Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (EMCVPA) is the premier arts college in the English-speaking Caribbean whose mission is to enrich the aesthetic sensibilities and promote the cultural diversity of the Caribbean through the highest quality education and training in the visual and performing arts.

The college operates six Schools – The Schools of Visual Arts, Drama, Dance, Music and Arts and a School of Continuing Education which offers part-time leisure and per credit courses, as well as an exciting Junior Programme for kids and teens.


The Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts has been through several stages in its evolution. The four Schools—Drama, Music, Dance, and Visual Arts—started out at different locations in Kingston. Two of the Schools, namely the School of Art and the School of Music, are historic because of their establishment in 1951 and 1961 respectively, before the island gained its independence from Britain in 1962.

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