Two Sides of the Same Coin: An Interview with Visual Artist Demar Brown

Twenty-one year old visual artist Demar ‘Timmy’ Brown may call Portmore home, but the talented young man hails from the parish of St. Ann, where his earliest experiences helped to foster the sense of imagination that runs wild in his final year piece at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.

Brown describes his beginnings as a visual artist with a kind of nostalgia – “I would see something and draw it from memory,” he recollects. “I’d see a car drive by and try to draw it after it was gone.”

Simple beginnings, but they nevertheless led him on the path to attaining a Bachelor of Fine Arts in the Visual Arts from the venerable institution. When explaining the inspiration for his final year piece, ‘Self Doubt: The Fight Within’, Brown notes that it was somewhat autobiographical. He kept doubting himself and his abilities. These themes of doubt and faithlessness coalesced into images of thoughts, brains and brain matter preventing an artist from realizing his potential.

Brown describes flashes of insight – hands pushing up, people climbing, hands tampering with ropes. “I didn’t use all the flashes, though” he adds. He deliberately veered away from real-life situations saying, “I wanted to keep it open, so that everyone could relate on an emotional level.”

The ambiguity played in his favour. He mentioned that on opening night Christians found a religious viewpoint from which to consider the work.  “My spirituality played a big part,” Brown admits.

Ironically, while working on a piece that envelops the idea of self-doubt, Brown found reserves of faith. “It takes faith to see it materialize,” he says. Faith amidst creative blocks and harsh criticism is a difficult thing to hold on, to but Brown is nothing short of tenacious. “Faith is a key and crucial thing to have.”

He admits to getting less than stellar grades during the development of the project, but he pushed on to have fans declare on the night of the exhibit that they were “overwhelmed by [his] work”.

For a 21 year old, the illustrator and graphic designer is remarkably self-possessed, emanating a sense of confidence that will certainly see him riding waves of success. Clearly, faith and self-doubt are merely two sides of the coin that is Demar Brown.

In addition to graphic design and illustration, Brown also works on commissioned portraits. (Leave a comment for further details).

All pictures courtesy of

Taboo at the Sherlock

Despite the limits of my university student wallet, I managed to indulge in a bit of culture by going to see Keiran King’s new play Taboo at Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts. (Right down the road from my hall of residence).

Based on the posters I was prepared for nudity, no PG-themes and . . . sex? (No idea). My friend M had mentioned an unexpected twist. I still don’t know what she was talking about. I saw that “twist” coming a mile away; the build-up just would not be ignored.

The play delivered.

It was foul-mouthed and witty, and yes, we got to see Yendi’s new-baby boobs. But aside from all that, Taboo struck home on a number of points. The lead character – William, played by King – is a disillusioned thirty year old writer who finds himself at the end of his drawn-out adolescence without having achieved any of his dreams. His relationship with his wife is on the rocks, and he finds solace only in his sister’s affection.

It’s not only the final denouement that is shockingly indelicate. The play talks about a lot of issues that are hushed up and overlooked, flinging itself out of the sphere of marital problems (a touchy topic in and of itself) into the larger closeted saga of family secrets, and the realities of life and adulthood.

The dialogue was fantastic. The play is all about double entendres and dirty puns, with a whole lot of self-deprecating humour. I was struck by how unafraid they were to criticize and call Jamaica out on all the crap that you only ever hear about when you complain to your friends. King in particular complains about how hard it is to be an author in Jamaica in a five minute rant that had me saying ‘Amen!’ aloud in the theatre. All his rants are entertaining. I remember spending a lot of time thinking ‘He talks like me.

The word refreshing is often over-used in these instances, but Taboo was like a tall glass of (Long Island) iced tea on a hot Kingston afternoon. Go watch it.

Running for the month of August. Tickets are $1500. Two-for-one on Tuesdays at 8.


Read the Gleaner review here! The Observer was way too mean. 

Medical school is not all fun and games. But we have fun. And we play games.

i fi i is a statement of human character and proof that our choices, whether good or bad, will ultimately define our destiny.

On Friday night I saw my class production “i fi i“. Smoker (what we affectionately call such productions) is an annual tradition of the third year medical class. It was at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts on the UWI campus in Mona and today, Sunday, will be the final two performances. But don’t bother trying to get tickets, because they’ve been sold out for at least a week.

It seems impossible to give  a thorough review without having spoilers abound, but I shall try anyway.

This original work is about a deported Jamaican, Julian, who returns home to find his community in the tight fist of a ruthless MP, Mrs. Anderson who controls her constituents indirectly through bad man, Tony. Julian, filled with righteous fury, sets out to rid the community of the evil forces – a task which is made more difficult when Julian gets a little too close to the seat of corruption. Ultimately, i fi i chronicles the moral decline of man. It shows us, through timeless and cleverly written examples, just how bad things can get when it is every man for himself.

During the show, I very much enjoyed the supporting cast whose performances shone throughout the play. I was struck, time and time again, at how much characters with minor roles and little to no dialogue can flesh out a scene. The performances of Jazz and Blues, Stacy, Ms. Gibbs, and Bandulu were subtle, like good seasoning, their mere presence adding depth and breadth and believability that made the play come alive.

Admittedly, I was not as enthralled with the Beggar Man as the rest of the audience. I felt that his character was a bit too much, at times overshadowing the rest of the cast, but I can’t deny that he was ably played by Director Rani Sittol. Kind of like Jim Carrey, his over-the-top acting is tolerable rather than irritating, and leaves you wondering, what’s so important about this Beggar Man?

I though the main cast left much to be desired – Theopholus Nelson, Gizelle Jackson and Alecia Hamilton didn’t quite thrill me in their roles as Julian, Mrs. Anderson and Zoe respectively. Julian’s second-hand British accent quickly became annoying, though the rest of the audience continued to find it amusing. His alleged fury with the state of his community was reduced to a farce – all bluster and very little action. Nelson’s Julian was rather less than the man he was trying to be.

Conversely, Doneilo Thomas played a very believable Tony and Gavin Austin delivered an admirable performance as the almost-too-good-to-be-real Steven. The difference between the acting styles of Nelson, Thomas and Austin is, once again, subtlety. Thomas keeps a steady undercurrent of the anger and hatred that embody Tony’s character while Austin keeps Steven just this side of  being ridiculously morally upstanding with a charming naivete.

However, Mrs. Anderson falls short of Lady Macbethian villainy. She reminded me too strongly of a woman trying to fit in with a man’s world. The constant presence of her cigar is a manifestation of this. A female villain must be feminine, otherwise the audience will automatically expect her downfall precisely because she does not fit into their expectations of a woman. Stacey embodies this quality – using her femininity to control and conspire. Treena Bailey does an impressive job of getting the audience to hate her character, even while she entertains them. Alecia Hamilton as Zoe, on the other hand, doesn’t do justice to the character of the ghetto girl trying to get out with education. I felt like her character, on a whole, was ineffective, but this may be a problem of the script as well as the acting.

For the most part I liked the dialogue. There were enough hidden messages to delight the medical students in the audience, and the writer, Kadeem Knight, made good use of the current slang to make his characters sound snappy and clever. This is a particularly commendable effort in a country where what is “cool” changes as often as the weather. The play also features an original score, and while the chorus delivered with every performance, Bailey’s solo in the second act was a bit of a disappointment (despite the ambitious lyrics of “love you like a surgeon”).

I was also impressed with the technical aspects of the show – the set design, and smoothness of scene changes.

I have saved the best for last in my critique of the dances. The most unfortunate thing about the dances in this play is that there were only two of them. Choreographers Deandra Thomas and Kristen Facey outdid themselves with the modern and dancehall pieces, playing to the strengths of their dancers but sacrificing none of the creativity. For the dances alone, I would watch this play again and again. But then I am biased to that particular branch of the performing arts.

Delivered by an amateur cast and crew, my expectations of Smoker 2012 were not very high. But what i fi i lacks in expertise, it makes up for in heart. The presentation may not be flawless, but it is certainly spirited, and if you don’t go into the theatre expecting a world-class production then I can guarantee you will have an enjoyable experience.


Book Review | The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Set in a post-apocalyptic utopia, The Host chronicles the journey of an alien creature as she deals with the body of her reluctant human host.

Spoilers abound, y'all.

I call it a utopia because even though the only real humans left survive in rebel factions and society has finally attained a perfectly peaceful structure. . . that isn’t human. It’s nice to imagine a world where everything is free, where health care is effortless and people don’t lie or hurt each other. It’s just kind of sad that we had to be possessed by aliens to do it.

Meyer’s novel touches on themes like bigotry, discrimination, male-female relationships (because what’s a Meyer novel without twu wuv) and deals idealistically with the issue of our own mortality. She digs through the depths of human character, turning up ugly parts and beautiful parts. And in playing human against alien, human against human, and alien against alien, she manages to reveal a little humanity (good and bad) in each one.

Yes, I’m aware that I’m probably over-analyzing Stephenie Meyer, of all people. But it’s rare that I get so hooked on a novel that I’m reading it until three a.m. (Not true, I was hooked on Diana Wynne Jones’ House of Many Ways just last month. Maybe I just have good taste in books?).

To wrap up, The Host has all the ingredients for a good novel: conflict, character growth and a happy, if unresolved, ending.

Read it. It’s worth the teasing you’ll get for having one of the Twilight woman’s books.


Mobay Food: The Soup Kitchen

Hungry yet?

In what is hopefully only the start of a series of ‘Why Montego Bay is Awesome’, I’ll be reviewing the restaurant on 8 Barnett St.: The Soup Kitchen.

The Soup Kitchen might daylight as a simple hardware store, but between the hours of noon and 5pm every Tuesday to Thursday (and noon to 8pm on Fridays), this unassuming restaurant is dishing up delicacies like Spaghetti & Chicken Cacciatore and Chicken Alfredo (affectionately dubbed Chicken Jamfredo) with penne pasta.

TL;DR reasonable prices, continental variety and good-sized servings = one great restaurant

Barely more than a year old, The Soup Kitchen already has a dedicated cache of patrons with companies and individuals ordering lunch on a daily basis. Did I mention they deliver? The restaurant also gets more than its fair share of walk-ins, catering to a crowd that is hungry for more than the tired fare of foods deep fried in grease and fat. It really is a higher culinary experience.

With a menu as varied as its clientèle, The Soup Kitchen serves its trademark Bar-B-Fried Chicken alongside cultural favourites like curried goat, escoveitched fish and brown stewed chicken. All meals served with choice of white rice or rice and peas. The Soup Kitchen offers a full dining complement with appetizers like mannish water and desserts like bread-and-butter pudding (and if you’ve never had it, trust me, you’re missing out). Even the beverage options are enticing – who can resist natural juice flavours like otaheite apple, cucumber and an expertly blended cucumber-fruit-punch mix?

So is it gauche to mention prices? I’m not sure what the social etiquette is for restaurant reviews. But price shouldn’t count when it comes to good food, right? Wrong. At least, I care a lot about prices when I’m being advertised to.

Soup Kitchen prices generally range from $350 to $700 JMD (with the more expensive stuff, like shrimp, being offered less often). They’ve also begun to offer a smaller lunch deal for $250. The regular sized lunch is pretty impressive too (I can’t finish it at one sitting, but then again I eat like a bird).

If you are ever in Montego Bay and if there are any Montegonians reading my blog, you don’t have to despair about finding proper food. The Soup Kitchen’s got you covered. :)


Review: 21 Jump Street (2012) | Centrefolds & Empty Screens

Pictured: a couple of badasses

I was going to write a film review for 21 Jump Street (which I saw last weekend) but these guys did it way better than I ever could. In my own humble opinion, it was a pretty hilarious film.

Review: 21 Jump Street (2012) | Centrefolds & Empty Screens.