The sculpture park at Moorlands in Westmoreland, Jamaica, is a must visit. The large non-digital billboard, with pictures of huge statues hewn from limestone, invites the public to “Jamaica Giants”.
Jamaica Giants sculpture park, situated on 4000 acres of rain forest, is on the top of Moreland Hill, 20 minutes north of Little London in Westmoreland. For more than one hundred years, the property was a sugar plantation, which has been converted, deliberately, into a rain forest of an almost infinite variety of beautiful trees, over the last 30 years.
We had searched for this place with a broad description in mind, assisted by directions from local citizens who knew the location of the site, but not what was there, and by two hardly visible, tiny directional signs.
On our arrival, a young woman of Polish birth, who has been living in Jamaica for 13 years, introduced herself as our tour guide. She guided us on a tour of the art gallery, and painted a vision for what the place could, and seems likely, to become as a tourist attraction. She spoke endlessly, having warned us that the statue of the man’s head at the entrance with his index finger signaling his lips to be quiet, really described her. She was extremely informative, sensitive to the nuances of Jamaican culture, respectful of the vision of the owner of the property, and embarrassingly more knowledgeable of the history of Westmoreland and Jamaica than too many of us born here.
From huge limestone rocks emerge sculptures of people relating to each other. There are the lovers, requited and unrequited, the jealous others, and a triangle of a disabled couple facing a pauper, both unable to help each other, while a thinker ponders the impossibility of them reaching out to each other. There are sculptures of mythical animals and humans that appear to be born out of stone with the help of a mid-husband of a genius sculptor, whose works form several mini-theme parks.
In addition to the limestone sculptures, he has carved stories of life and Nature from the roots of trees that demand the viewer’s rapt attention and reflection. All of this lies around the base of two gigantic cotton trees believed to be over 250 years old, whose joined canopies seem to embrace the sculptures from above.
The tour guide-manager led us through the sculpture park with stories of how it had come into being, and hints of what it was to become through the imagination of the full-time sculptor who seemed to be carving his and the owner’s vision in every rock that exposed itself. Eventually, we came upon a new building where the old great house had been, on the top of the hill. That vantage point provides a 360-degree view of Westmoreland and parts of Hanover. The views are breathtaking in every direction.
The Sculpture Park Art Gallery
The building housed several rooms of fine acrylic paintings and pencil drawings by an artist, who like the sculptor, was committed full-time to the project. We were told that these were but a few of the paintings and drawings produced by the artist and only a part of the huge art collection of the owner. One interesting theme is the reinterpretation of famous works of art, such as Michaelangelo’s David as a black man. Clearly, the owner and his painter were returning Greek and Roman mythology and art to their African roots, from a Westmoreland perspective.
During our visit, we were fortunate to meet, Mr. Ricky Jackson, the owner and conceptualizer of Jamaica Giants Sculpture Park and Art Gallery. I wondered how and when he had acquired this very large abandoned plantation. I later learnt that he bought the plantation in 1987 and since then has planted hundreds of thousands of trees, which include lumber trees and tropical fruit trees. His vision was the development of a rain forest and a nature reserve.
The vision for the gallery, not yet opened formally, is to display the work of local artists from Westmoreland. The tour guide-manager seemed more eager to get the project up and running than the easy pace of the owner and the painter suggested. They were pursuing a vision that they wanted to share with the world, but one sensed that if the world did not want to share it, they would pursue their vision anyway.
Jamaica Giants Sculpture Park is already an enrichment of the culture of Westmoreland, and by extension, Jamaica and the Caribbean. The vision sketched invites one to return to see the growth and development of the gallery, located in a remote location with no electricity and some rough patches of road. Here, on Moreland Hill, one can imagine the positive benefits that could result from harnessing the creativity of the people for works that edify the human spirit, rather than the self-destructive hustling and scamming.
The spontaneous adventure left us in awe at what has been achieved, in wonderment at how the vision will unfold in the future, and the hope that young Jamaicans in particular, who are ultimately the “Giants” in the owner’s imagination, will experience this rich expression of our culture.