Visual Culture: Jamaican Dancehall Signs From the Collection of Maxine Walters

Words by Jesse Serwer—

For the last 12 plus years, Jamaican film and TV producer Maxine Walters—she’s had her hand in most every major movie shot in JA over the last three decades, from The Mighty Quinn to Clara’s Heart— has been archiving and collecting one of Jamaica’s most unique and overlooked visual bounties: the vibrant, hand-painted signs found in public spaces across the island. Sturdy and technically illegal, these bold homemade advertisements are nailed to poles and trees everywhere from Half Way Tree to mountain villages, usually during the middle of the night, to promote grassroots events ranging from that weekend’s bashment party to the arrival in town of a pantomime play, or all-star reggae concert.

For its inaugural publishing venture, Miss Lily’s Variety, the retail store and gallery/cultural space of NYC restaurant Miss Lily’s, has tapped into the immense archive of signs collected by Walters. Miss Lily’s tapped me to write the foreword for the succinctly titled book, Jamaican Dancehall Signs, and to conduct an intriguing interview with Walters—who can often be often seen scaling trees, poles, walls, and fences, crowbar in hand, to add to her collection. You’ll have to wait until Wednesday Sept. 12 to buy the book, or catch the opening of the show at Miss Lily’s Variety featuring Walters’ toppa top signs (which will remain on view through Oct. 24) but, until then, here’s an appetizer with some of the visual treats that await. Just Niceness, indeed.






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