Healing art

THE immense inspirational effect the first phase of the Tivoli Gardens mural project has been having on the residents of that West Kingston community has fired up eagerness in the organisers who are gearing up to kick-start phase two.

Tivoli Gardens’ social organiser, Oniel Coke, who is spearheading the project, said the team of volunteer artists managed to bring a section of the community called Bumps Park to life in such a way that many people could not have imagined after the 2010 security operation in the community left several residents traumatised.

In 2010 Tivoli suffered a great tragedy when the security forces invaded the community in search of former strongman and convicted drug lord, Christopher “Dudus” Coke. Over 70 civilians lost their lives during the invasion as police and soldiers traded bullets with gunmen. There were also many claims of extrajudicial killings.

The art project, conceptualised 12 years after the calamity, is aimed at bringing healing to the residents.

“Based on our observation, what we hoped to achieve, we achieved it in a way that we didn’t even imagine. We see how the children react to it, and the way they react to it is not different from how the adults react to it. We get a chance now to see the young and the old experiencing the same kind of therapy — and it is a joy,” Coke told the Jamaica Observer.

The joy oozing from the residents has given Coke inspiration to keep pressing ahead until it spreads community-wide.

“When we see the impact and how people on a whole respond to it, you can just imagine what will happen when we touch the other areas. Other people want it in their zone and in their own space. We want to ensure that no matter what point you enter Tivoli from, you can always have this therapeutic experience.

“We have measured up 25,000 square feet of space. For phase two we need paint, scaffolding, food and transportation for the artists. We need primers and brushes. This time around we would want to secure some kind of stipend for our lead artists because we have people who come from as far as Guy’s Hill,” Coke said as he appealed for support from corporate Jamaica and other potential donors.

He added that at some point there will be an aspect of the project that will rid the high-rise buildings in the community of bullet holes resulting from heavy gunfire during the 2010 joint security operation in the community. He pointed out that each time the people try to move past the experience in 2010, the bullet holes drag their minds back to those dreadful days.

“Once you can bring that form of inspiration to people’s doorsteps, I think people just can’t do anything but just be inspired. We have one of the best communities, a fully fledged community with proper structure. I think the bullet holes create a continuous trauma; we would love to be able to address the bullet holes. Somebody suggested that maybe we should draw flowers around them, just to change how they appear, and that might be cheaper than trying to fix the area.”

Coke expressed gratitude to all the people and entities that helped them complete the first phase, including Berger Paints, Ribbiz Ocean Lounge, Wisynco, Swatch International, Art Evolution and all the artists.

Lead artist, Marlon “Life Child” Spencer of Art Evolution, encouraged people to support the second phase of the project in whatever way they can.

“Tivoli needs healing so we are trying to push that healing aspect. We are looking to see if we can get in some international artists for phase two; some of them have reached out to me. Right now we are just seeing how best we can put everything together. If your mind is shattered and you are looking for a way out, you can find that through art.”

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