#Ex­po­sureIsNotCur­rency Goes Vi­ral

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LO­CAL - By Clau­dia Elei­box

Ja­maal Bruce, more pop­u­larly known as “Freak­out”, has been pol­ish­ing his craft of dance for the past six years. He has made ap­pear­ances on some of the big­gest stages in Saint Lu­cia in­clud­ing Soca Monarch, the Jazz & Arts Fes­ti­val, Ted­dyson John's U4RIA and the “Allez” mu­sic video. Freak­out has be­come a stage per­son­al­ity, called upon to help bring life and char­ac­ter to many events. His per­for­mances are not lim­ited to danc­ing; he makes a con­scious ef­fort to choose the right mu­sic and paints his body with his sig­na­ture sym­bols. On so­cial me­dia ac­counts Freak­out uses his pho­tog­ra­phy skills to cre­ate an at­mos­phere and to send pro­found mes­sages. His work of art has a pur­pose, no mat­ter which form he chooses.

But as of Fri­day last week, Ja­maal Bruce took up a whole new project. On Thurs­day, April 13 he woke up de­ter­mined to ad­dress the press­ing is­sue of the un­der-ap­pre­ci­a­tion of artists and cre­ative pro­fes­sion­als in Saint Lu­cia. Ja­maal im­me­di­ately got to work and con­sulted other artists. He cre­ated graphic art for as many cre­ative ex­pres­sions as he could think of in­clud­ing dance, writ­ing, bak­ing, modelling, make-up artistry and pho­tog­ra­phy and set them against an orange back­drop.

“I chose orange be­cause I re­ally felt like it was the right colour, it's my spirit colour,” he com­mented. Ev­ery im­age is ac­com­pa­nied by the phrase “Ex­po­sure Is Not Cur­rency” and posted with the hash­tag #EINC. By Fri­day morn­ing Ja­maal had dis­trib­uted these im­ages to ev­ery known artist and cre­ative pro­fes­sional, and it took Saint Lu­cia's so­cial me­dia plat­forms by storm.

“You can't have these young peo­ple striv­ing and push­ing their bod­ies for just com­pli­ments and their names (some­times spelt in­cor­rectly) at the bot­tom of the broad­cast. Why should you make us go through all this just for a shout out?” The plight for many artists in Saint Lu­cia is that at very short no­tice cor­po­rate com­pa­nies or gov­ern­ment re­quest per­for­mances or art­work for their events. When it is time to be paid, artists find them­selves wait­ing for weeks or months for less than $200 and the guar­an­tee of “ex­po­sure”. But ac­cord­ing to Ja­maal and many artists who are par­tic­i­pat­ing in shar­ing the mes­sage, “ex­po­sure” does not pay the bills or com­pen­sate for the hours of hard work put into one per­for­mance or pre­sen­ta­tion. “I re­mem­ber go­ing to an event that I had to per­form at, sweat­ing back­stage, to be told that the co­or­di­na­tors ask that they don't feed us or give re­fresh­ments. By 'us' I mean 'The Dancers'. I think that's when the fire truly started for me,” he rem­i­nisced.

To Ja­maal's plea­sure the move­ment he started ex­ploded in twenty-four hours and some of the well-known artists who have made it to the pro­fes­sional arena are help­ing him spread the word in­clud­ing Sedale, Wave­maker Pho­tog­ra­phy and Dav­ina Lee. “This hap­pens through­out the world, yes, but in the Caribbean be­ing an artist is be­ing a hob­by­ist and if there's one thing that ag­gra­vates me it's the mind­set that be­ing an artist is equiv­a­lent to be­ing un­em­ployed. We're ob­vi­ously not per­fect but I don't think we're un­fath­omable to the point where we don't de­serve a voice.”

Lo­cal artists and cre­atives are ad­vo­cat­ing for fair treat­ment, and proper com­pen­sa­tion for their work.

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