“No-one on that ship…thought we’d be leaving home forever, but when my father hugged me on the dockside, for some reason, I knew I’d never see him again…I still see my father; you know, in my mind at least… after all these years…but I can’t see his face….No matter how hard I try… I never see his face.”
Amy Jackson, (Dudley, 2011)
This work in development for the Midland Arts Centre Birmingham stems from an earlier investigation entitled ‘From a small island.’ lt examines legacies of migration, on both sides of the Atlantic, via the experiences of those who came from the Caribbean to work in the factories of Britain, in the long austere years after the Second World War, and who never left.
The experiences of my parents in particular acts as a catalyst to open and explore the political landscape of Britain, during the last sixty years, but also the story of Jamaican migration, within a dialogue of race, identity and the global movements of people. Movements that cast lives in a temporaneous arc of what was, what has become and what could have been.
My parents, Alford and Amy Jackson, both left Jamaica, one by plane, the other by ship; unknown to each other, and yet, both destined to meet in the life at the end their travels. They would be travels that would take them from what was, to what would be, and travels that would see them leave behind all that they knew and loved - fathers, mothers and brothers - never to see them again.
For the sons and daughters of the Commonwealth, who came to the (Motherland) there will be no monuments built to bear their names. And no wreaths will be laid to remember those who came to help rebuild what war had broken. Perhaps this is why I have chosen to photograph my family, to make a mark that says that they were here and should not be forgotten.
So this is their story but it is also a story of Jamaica, migration, Britain, and identity within the interplays of race in the shifting geographical places that mark one’s concept of home.
Yet somewhere in my mother’s mind, the ship that took her from Jamaica is still out there at sea, forever sailing in a world of fair seas and calm waters, and where her father and brother are alive again and waiting for her by the dockside to come back home.
This work will return to Jamaica to see what was left behind in the wake of her leaving and examine the myths and folklore that she has constructed to maintain who she once was in a world that is no more.
Britain’s gain could have been America’s as my parents each considered the journey northwards. As such, there is also an intent to examine where my parents would have moved to in New York to explore what their future would have been like had they decided to go to the United States, instead of migrating to Britain.
The departure of my parents would ultimately prove to be Jamaica’s loss. What leaves cannot remain and Jamaica bereft of those who waved their final goodbyes would pay a price for the loss of those who left to rebuild one world, only to leave another to fall.
The scope of this work is large because it examines not just the stories of a few people but of the many during the last sixty years of this country. It is therefore deserving of such a scale. It will seek to examine the landscapes of migration from Jamaica to Britain and the United States within a work that examines the lies that we tell ourselves as much as the lies which are told against us. But this work will also be a legacy of my own personal heritage.
This work will adopt a multidisciplinary approach encompassing still and moving images,, recorded interviews (?), new writing, drawingss and installations in order to create an atmosphere that challenges and causes the audience to immerse in,both reflect on and experience the journey of migration and transformation.
Steven Mayes cited in 2009, when discussing the entries for World Press Photo that year, said that there are such “huge gaps" in "black culture and [the] expanded vision of black life outside Africa" that are being ignored by photography. Mayes later went on to say that what is lacking in photojournalism is work that "is really intimate and truly personal". In that light, I hope, as this work develops that it can indeed be really intimate, sensitive, open and truly personal.
Time of course is not ours to own, as we are all powerless to prevent its passage and powerless too to prevent our march into infirmity. Therefore the loss of who we once were within the inevitable journey across the sea of life from cradle to the grave cannot be halted but its story nonetheless should be told.