Jamaica Gleaner

Street­side art vend­ing

way of life for sev­eral artists

- Ro­maine Newell • Gleaner Writer

APIC­TURE tells a thou­sand words and the in­tri­cacy of the line work on a wicker chair tells its strength and dura­bil­ity. Art stems from pas­sion, born from an in­nate love. In­ter­est­ingly, right across Ja­maica, we can see men on the road­side dis­play­ing works of art in var­i­ous forms. But what of this Ja­maican street­side art and craft phe­nom­e­non and the art ven­dors ped­dling their wares? Is it a form of artis­tic ex­pres­sion or sur­vival from the art?

Arts & Ed­u­ca­tion took to the streets across Kingston and St An­drew to in­ter­view some of these street art ven­dors about their pro­fes­sion and pas­sion for art.

“It did start fi mi when mi young and did a guh school. Mi teacha (Miss James) did love draw. If she did seh ball, she woulda draw ball and mi did al­ways a draw weh she draw,” Basil Clay­ton shared.

He said he re­ceived no for­mal ed­u­ca­tion in art, but was gifted with the nat­u­ral abil­ity. He honed his craft by go­ing to a few gal­leries and art shows, as well as learn­ing from es­tab­lished artistes.

Fel­low art and craft street ven­dor, Benji, stated that it was be­cause of his back­ground that he came to choose this pro­fes­sion.

“Mi did grow up inna Rasta tribe, and Rasta kinda self­em­ployed, peo­ple nuh re­ally like hire dem so dem just duh sum’n fi dem­selves fi sur­vive. And that a one a di skill dem weh dem did duh,” Benji told Arts & Ed­u­ca­tion.

“Is a friend teach me how fi do this and mi start mek straw mat from mi bout 18. Then mi start mek wicker, iron board, bas­ket, ludo board, and mat fi di door­way.”

IN­COME VARIES

Basil shared that the in­come from street­side art vend­ing varies, and that hav­ing a steady cus­tomer stream was cru­cial to what one can make in a day, not­ing that this was the “mys­ti­cal” part of art.

“A man can just sell a one paint­ing and mek a $1,000,000 and gwaan pon a beach fi re­lax,” he pointed out.

“A paint­ing price­less enuh, but a man will come and want a road­side paint­ing and mi can sell him it fi a $20,000. But other times, yuh have ‘jug­gling paint­ing’ when yuh wah mek quick money. Mi sell dem deh fi $10,000.”

The street­side art ven­dor pointed out that tak­ing or­ders can rake in much more money than selling paint­ings on the road­side, and that he av­er­aged $100,000 per month in in­come.

Amaz­ingly, Basil shared, in­come from his paint­ings can main­tain him to the point of not touch­ing his gov­ern­ment pen­sion since he re­tired from mil­i­tary du­ties in 1990.

“Mi mek $180,000 fi duh one paint­ing, and that was a spe­cial or­der. Mi did a in­ter­view at the US Em­bassy and mi tell dem seh a $100,000 mi mek a month. Though mi coulda mek a mil­lion dol­lar if mi did a work harder,” Basil said.

Benji, on the other hand, made his in­come based on craft items that are saleable at the time and bar­gains made with peo­ple.

“Like a wicker chair, mi sell it fi $2,000, but more if other peo­ple nuh have it. And mi will sell it fi all a $1,800 some­times, suh it de­pends. A back-to-school time now, so mi sell iron board fi bout $2,000. Mi haffi mek things fi help poor peo­ple since a dem mainly buy from mi,” he said.

When ques­tioned if the in­come from street­side art vend­ing could pro­vide for a fam­ily, Benji re­sponded: “Mi have 17 pick­ney and mi use dis and sen dem guh school, ev­ery­one a dem.”

PAS­SION FOR ART

Basil said he has a gen­uine love and pas­sion for art and that his in­spi­ra­tion comes from do­ing land­scape scener­ies, which a ma­jor­ity of his cus­tomers buy.

“Mi mostly duh places like Bam­boo Walk or sum’n. Some­time a out a book mi look and paint. But mi love art, so mi al­ways like weh mi duh. If Miss James did alive, mi woulda give har nuff gift,” Basil said with laugh­ter.

Benji said he also has a love and pas­sion for art and craft, but he also sees it as a form of sur­vival.

“Mi love mi craft, but it a wah pro­vide fi mi fam­ily, suh mi deh yah seven days a week more time,” he stated.

So, whether it’s out of sur­vival or love, these men cre­ate their own art that en­ables them to sur­vive while con­vey­ing their artis­tic ex­pres­sions in their own way.

 ??  ?? PHOTOS BY IAN ALLEN/
PHO­TOG­RA­PHER Street­side
art and craft along
South Av­enue, St An­drew.
PHOTOS BY IAN ALLEN/ PHO­TOG­RA­PHER Street­side art and craft along South Av­enue, St An­drew.
 ??  ?? Basil said he has a gen­uine love and pas­sion for art and that his in­spi­ra­tion comes from do­ing land­scape scener­ies, which a ma­jor­ity of his cus­tomers buy.
Basil said he has a gen­uine love and pas­sion for art and that his in­spi­ra­tion comes from do­ing land­scape scener­ies, which a ma­jor­ity of his cus­tomers buy.
 ?? PHOTOS BY IAN ALLEN/PHO­TOG­RA­PHER ?? Nor­man Clay­ton (Basil Clay­ton), street­side artist on Lady Mus­grave Road, St An­drew.
PHOTOS BY IAN ALLEN/PHO­TOG­RA­PHER Nor­man Clay­ton (Basil Clay­ton), street­side artist on Lady Mus­grave Road, St An­drew.
 ??  ?? Benji: ‘Mi haffi mek things fi help poor peo­ple since a dem mainly buy from mi.’
Benji: ‘Mi haffi mek things fi help poor peo­ple since a dem mainly buy from mi.’
 ??  ?? Benji: ‘A back-to-school time now, so mi sell iron board.’
Benji: ‘A back-to-school time now, so mi sell iron board.’
 ??  ?? Street­side art along South Av­enue.
Street­side art along South Av­enue.

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