|From BE! THE AKOBEN AESTHETIC, 2019 (a group show with K Khalfani Ra),|
|detail from series of collages by Omari Ra, 2019|
Omari Ra is the current Head of the Painting Department at the Edna Manley College and has been an important figure in Jamaican painting for over thirty years. The exploration of blackness, black masculinity, and (neo)colonial power in Jamaica has been a main underpinning in his work. In his monumental paintings Ra has consistently depicted himself in the guise of African-Caribbean historic rebel leaders to reclaim and embody the history of resistance in the region. He has also used other icons of power, whether Queen Victoria or Jamaica’s first Prime Minister, Alexander Bustamante, to challenge colonial and national narratives. Ra’s early paintings were neo-expressive in style and as his work developed he experimented with collage and installation. He has actively engaged the exploration of material painting on tarpaulin, textile, playing cards and bullets. Rather than the title visual artist, he uses the term philo-visualizer to refer to the work he does through his practice and in the community to encourage critical thought about identity and local popular culture by young black creatives.
– Oneika Russell
The ‘Artists To Know’ feature began as a part of the Instagram Takeover that we partnered with Residency Unlimited on during the period of protests over public monuments, racial injustice and other calls for political paradigm shifts (June 19th). It is our wish to further showcase a growing list of Caribbean artists that are doing work and have done work that is both critical and timely. Find out more about Omari Ra’s work on Instagram @akoben_head and The National Gallery of Jamaica’s website.