Words and Photos by Martei Korley
Mavis Bank is a modest, Jamaican village in the area known as St. Andrew East Rural, tucked under the shadow of the imposing Blue Mountain. It’s a place where church groups come for weekend hikes, and tourists make the pilgrimage to farms known for producing some of the world’s best coffee.
To reach Mavis Bank from Kingston, you first must pass Gordon Town (home of the Louise Bennett All Age School previously featured in the Jamaican School Days series) and, after countless turns through narrow valleys, past natural springs, and around the base of Bald Mountain — where the container-sized rocks are so huge that the road literally adjusts to accommodate them — you finally reach the Mavis Bank Coffee Factory. This signals that you are only two turns away from entering Mavis Bank proper. After passing some shops, a small post office and a police station, follow the road further past a T-shaped junction (where a turn would take you to Clydesdale, Silver Gap or Cinchona) and the brightly-colored Scorpio Inn Hotel and, finally, Mavis Bank High School will appear to your right.
Nestled below the road and ringed by hilltops, the school feels like a bit like a self-contained universe next to its vast surroundings,,. It has a rather large schoolyard, which gives it the feeling of a small village square — appropriate since Mavis Bank lacks any other space of this sort. There’s lots of fresh air, and lots of dramatic scenery.
It was late in the school year and late in the day when I arrived there from Kingston. I met with the principal, who was very gracious, and everything was more or less adapted to, and taken care of right on the spot. The students felt very relaxed and free; the only exceptions being the two boys sitting down, dreaming.
In the first picture (above), you have the obligatory “posse picture” — kids always want to line up and ham up for the camera in groups. Sometimes, it is a way of masking their individuality, other times not. I think that all of them in this photo have this very interesting connectivity. If you notice, their arms tie them together: All but two are intertwined. Doesn’t that say something about them being kind of healthy?
I liked their energy — It was full of movement, a bouncy adolescent kind of energy. They are still free to be young and forego some of society’s pressures when they are in that schoolyard, playing around.
This young youth is lost in reflection while one of his peers passes by, improvised tattoo inked onto his skin. Why are children always wanting to grow up quick instead of enjoying the time they are living in?
Another youth at the brink of adulthood. His demeanor and body language belies his tender age but the banana pendant quickly gives away his secret…
Physically, this was one of the smallest students at Mavis Bank High School. However his bright smile made him seem akin to an imposing giant, as he shows his school spirit, ringed by the peaks and foothills of the Blue Mountains.
These girls got to share a game of cards as their formal class was over. Clearly, it was very engaging.
Every schoolyard has a loner or two. Whether this youth is one such, I cannot say. However, the large schoolyard sets the stage for a complicated drama in the deep valley beneath the peaks, should you not have the right social network. As at every high school, everywhere…
The freshly-pruned hedges underscore the promise of a new crop of fertile minds. #Jamaica