Updated: Sep 7
Jamaica is bigger than its borders. For larger, more affluent countries, it seems inevitable that they have achieved celebrity status on the world atlas. For a country like Jamaica, the feat is that much more impressive for its relative scale and persistence. The island nation ranks highly as a tourist destination, is frequently sought for inspiration by various celebrities, and is well-loved by travellers and international film crews in search of vibrant, tropical nature. But it’s more than that. Be it athletics, music, pageantry, cuisine, or scholarship, Jamaica has also produced a considerable share of champions. The achievements and character of the Jamaican people and the legacies they weave into the rhizome of world history are undeniable.
Just how much of an impression has Jamaica made on the world stage? The answer for Novia McDonald-Whyte and Lisa Lovatt-Smith is given a vivid canvas in Jamaica Vibes – a coffee table book authored by the duo and published by Aussoline.
Novia is the senior associate editor for lifestyle and social content at the Jamaica Observer Media Group. The expertise that she has gained throughout her career is translated in hi-res on the pages of Jamaica Vibes. If anyone could give you a full glimpse of Jamaica’s culture-rich tapestry – the hidden gems, the accomplished personalities, the historical and modern significances – it would be Novia in the editorial department of one of Jamaica’s most prominent media houses. The collaboration with Lisa, a global citizen and adopted denizen of the isle, can then be said to also offer a perspective of Jamaica as it appears to the world looking in. This balanced vision – Jamaica as a homeland and travel destination – is what makes Jamaica Vibes such a compelling tome.
Jamaica Vibes is decidedly a celebration of some of the island’s most stellar wonders and achievements, a slice of what makes the paradise. The authors have catalogued a refined selection from Jamaica’s highlight reel in the 61 years since it gained independence. This celebration could be felt at a recent book signing as Novia shared the moment with fellow passionate Jamaicans.
The signing was hosted at Locale in the heart of Kingston, Jamaica’s capital. It was a fitting location in many ways. There is no way to tell Jamaica's story without Kingston as the main protagonist, at the centre of its politics, commerce and culture. Locale is an island brand at heart, with a global platform highlighting elevated retail experiences and a finely curated catalogue of small-batch artisan products. The event, then, was a seamless blend of symbolism and taste, much like the pages of the book.
Lisa was not in attendance at the signing, but her touch is not lost in the book. She spent fifteen years as an editor and fashion director at various editions of Vogue, a publication that Novia herself has contributed to. The vision that the pair translate through the pages of Jamaica Vibes could easily have been captured by a Vogue lens. Rich in visual and contextual details, the book tells a timeless tale that locals and habitués alike can appreciate. It is a tale that captures the deep meaning of the Jamaican expression “likkle but we tallawah” – “little but capable,” or perhaps more aptly, “we make the most of what we have.”
Maps might look different in the Occident, the Orient and Australia, but we are all looking at the same world stage. There is the varied space that each country occupies on a map and the varied space that each country occupies in our minds and hearts. Jamaica is a tiny island nestled among an archipelago given to much collective nomenclature, such as the Americas, the Greater and Lesser Antilles, the West Indies, the Caribbean. Yet, Jamaica has stood out as a shining example throughout its recorded history.
An introduction to the book reads:
This national pride is reflected in the music, dance, cuisine and literature that originated in Jamaica but has since influenced people across the globe. The legacy of Bob Marley is intricately linked with the image of Jamaica, leaving an indelible mark on the country and the world. For novelist Ian Fleming, Jamaica was his creative incubator. At his home, GoldenEye, Fleming crafted one of the most well-known characters in the world, James Bond...Whether you’re born and raised on the island, or just on a vacation, Jamaica’s influence is undeniable.
The island is also called 'Jamrock' by its people, born and adopted. It is a name that captures the pride and humility felt by those who witness Jamaica's magic. The idea that this little rock in the Caribbean Sea could yield such wonder and talent, as it has. Must be something in the water.
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