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Sacred Crossroads

(L-r) National Gallery Deputy Director Natalie Coleman and prominent art critic Annie Paul

Earlier this summer the National Gallery's, Deputy Director, Natalie Coleman and Outreach and Education Officer, Kiran Denis travelled to UWI's Jamaica campus for the 7th International Crossroads in Cultural Studies Conference.

This year's conference theme was 'Sacred Crossroads' a fitting topic for the Caribbean region which could well be regarded as one of the first crossroads of the modern era - being a site of conquest, dislocation, crossings, enslavement and rebellion, but also of memory and survival, culture-building, and immense creativity and heritage.

Within this topic, spotlight themes included Rituals of Arrival and Contact; the Art of the Caribbean Crossroads; Spirituality and Identity Globalization and Diaspora; Nationalism and Locality; Cultures of reconciliation; and Cultural policy issues, among others.

In addition to the global topics discussed, all aspects of Jamaican culture, including the island's other indigenous spiritual beliefs and rituals such as Kumina, revival and Pocomania were given equal prominence and attention.

These concerns were discussed in a multi-disciplinary context through both traditional symposia along with religious festivities, art, dance, song, orature (storytelling), and performance.

Speaking about the conference Ms. Coleman said, "The themes discussed over the five day event were very relevant to our current situation here in Cayman. Issues such as multiculturalism, heritage and globalization all contribute to how we understand and maintain our own identity. Participating at the event has allowed us to engage directly with key cultural theorists on these themes and in turn, we plan to host a series of panel discussions at the Gallery in an effort to broaden our dialogue about culture. Professionally this has been a stimulating and rewarding experience."

This is the first time the conference has been held in the Southern hemisphere and given the location it was not surprising that among the numerous papers to be presented, popular areas were religion and spirituality, identity, art, and music. Guest speakers such as Barbadian Professor Kamau Brathwaite, Trinidadian Professor M. Jacqui Alexander and Jamaica's Professors Rex Nettleford and Carolyn Cooper all made presentations on these topics. Additionally, former Jamaican Prime Minister, Edward Seaga, lectured on Revivalism.

At the invitation of conference coordinator Dr. Sonjah Stanley-Niah, keynote speaker Arturo Escobar spoke on 'Latin America at a Crossroads: Moving Beyond Modernity', in an attempt to strengthen links with our closest neighbours and to highlight the wider Caribbean and Latin America in a context of globalization.

Based mainly at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, the international conference hosted 550 persons from 68 countries.

For information at this series please contact The National Gallery at 945 8111 or email