Hand, Kingston Jamaica – Andrew Jackson

Caroline Molloy, Senior Lecturer in Photography at Coventry University, reviews Andrew Jackson: From A Small Island at Midland Arts Centre (MAC)

Currently on display at Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) is Andrew Jackson’s body of work, From a Small Island. Jackson has been building and refining this body of work exploring themes of diasporic identity, migration, memory and family since 2010. The work investigates the complexities of Jamaican diasporic identities in Britain, informed by his own experience of growing up in the West Midlands as a child of Jamaican-born parents. The images include intimate portraits of his parents Amy and Alford made in his childhood family home as well as photographs of Jamaica, which seek to challenge stereotypical representations of the island country.

The past, Dudley, England – Andrew Jackson

In the forty seven images exhibited at the MAC, Jackson oscillates between an insider and outsider as he investigates the boundaries of belonging and exclusion. Originally conceived to capture and preserve his mother’s memories of Jamaica, Jackson realised her stories imagine the country she left behind in 1956, destined never to return. Motivated by this, Jackson chose to visit for the first time to visually investigate the homeland of his parents. Having crossed the Atlantic, Jackson is a flâneur in his parents’ homeland, responding to the Jamaica that greets him.

Ship, Kingston Jamaica – Andrew Jackson

There is a complexity to the titling of Jackson’s work From a Small Island, which concurrently, connects the small island of Britain (where Jackson was born) with the island of Jamaica, the birthplace of his parents. The ambiguity of the titling has a synergy with Kincaid’s (2000) book titled A Small Place, in which she analyses the impact of neo-colonialism on the Caribbean island of Antigua*. This is a theme that is alluded to in some of Jackson’s images of Jamaica, such as the diptych images Ship and Beach, which features a cruise liner as it docks, fenced off from local population; and the abandoned Pool in Kingston Jamaica, which contradicts familiar visual depictions of Jamaica as a tropical idyll.

On the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush migration from the West Indies, Jackson’s images bring together a personal familial story that pertains to a collective migrant narrative. His work speaks of race, identity, migration, and the complications of growing up in a diasporic community.

Jackson will be speaking about From a Small Island at the Beyond Windrush Conference: A conversation about art, politics and immigration in post-war Britain at MAC on Saturday 9 June 2018.

Andrew Jackson: From a Small Island runs until Sunday 8 July at Midlands Arts CentreThere will be an artist talk and tour of the exhibition on Tuesday 26 June.

Andrew is also currently leading photography workshops for 16-25 year olds in Birmingham as part of Green Lens, a green activism competition from Ampersand Projects and ecobirmingham


*Kincaid, J. (2000) A Small Place. Farrar, Straus and Giroux