Big makes it again

Jamaica Gleaner - - ARTS & EDUCATION - Paul H. Wil­liams Con­trib­u­tor

THIS TIME around it is a drum. About 20 feet long, it has to be the long­est in Ja­maica and, per­haps, in all of the Caribbean. And it is not just a gi­gan­tic show­piece. It is func­tional as was demon­strated on Sun­day, Novem­ber 6, af­ter it was un­veiled to pa­trons at Farm to Ta­ble, held at Or­ange Hall Es­tates in St Ann. The event, a pot­pourri of food, art and wel­fare, is the brain­child of sculp­tor Laura Facey-Cooper. This year, the pro­ceeds go to­wards the de­vel­op­ment of an arts pro­gramme at the Boy’s Town In­fant and Pri­mary School.

The big, two-headed gong, too, is Facey-Cooper’s idea, and

Arts and Ed­u­ca­tion was present to hear the first pub­lic beats.

The cot­ton tree from which it was sculpted was blown down by Hur­ri­cane Sandy in 2012, and “I just felt in­spired to make a dou­ble-sided drum”, FaceyCooper said. She wanted to reach out to the African and white an­ces­tors who lived and worked on the Or­ange Hall Es­tates. It’s all about heal­ing and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion – Africans at one end and Euro­peans at the other – hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion through drum­beats.

The process of mak­ing the drum started with the re­moval of the branches and other ap­pendages. Af­ter it was made hol­low at a river by men such as Jef­frey Hud­son, Del­roy Hud­son, Jermaine Har­ri­son, Omar David­son, and Ho­race Rho­den, over a three-to-four-month pe­riod, it was dragged “back way” up a hill by a “con­trap­tion with wheels” made from an old truck chas­sis.


The out­side, painted in red and in­digo, is re­plete with grooves cre­ated by small chain­saws, while the open­ings are cov­ered with cat­tle hide. FaceyCooper said arte­san and drum­mer Fo­suwa An­doh guided her on how to dry the hide and on the whole process of af­fix­ing it to the drum.

On Sun­day, while Del­roy Hud­son beat the cot­ton-tree drum, An­doh ac­com­pa­nied him on her Gim­bay, to great ap­pre­ci­a­tion from pa­trons. In re­sponse to ques­tions about how she felt about the evo­lu­tion of the drum from idea to re­al­ity, Facey said: “I’m happy I’ve come this far. I want to see it in full ac­tion.” And as to where it will end up, Facey-Cooper does not know right now.

It is to be noted that the silk cot­ton tree from which the drum was crafted was a sig­nif­i­cant el­e­ment in the rit­u­als and nar­ra­tives of en­slaved west Africans in Ja­maica and so was the drum. No doubt, the sounds com­ing from it will con­vey pow­er­ful ances­tral mes­sages.


Sculp­tor Laura FaceyCooper says her cot­ton­tree drum is all about heal­ing and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

From left: Del­roy Hud­son and Jef­frey Hud­son are two of the men who as­sisted Laura Facey-Cooper in cre­at­ing her gi­gan­tic cot­ton-tree drum.


In­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed mas­ter drum­mer Marogh­ini was moved to have him­self pho­tographed be­side Laura Facey-Cooper’s ‘ances­tral’ cot­ton-tree drum.

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