The Other Side of Paradise

An exhibition of linocuts from Trinidadian artist Lee Johnson, exploring the lush vegetation and rich folklore of inland Trinidad and Jamaica.

Artist: Lee Johnson

Dates: 26 April - 12 May 2018


“There’s some vague horror
Inside the unchristened bush.”
Derek Walcott

Here in England, countryside is identity. It’s an escape from the dense cities and it bleats with the sound of farming and the ideal of bucolic idylls.

But in the Caribbean, escape from the hot city is toward the even hotter beach. West Indian life is contained and constrained between city and shore. In Trinidad (and Jamaica), to go inland is to adventure into a place where the wet green leaves teem with the terrors of African Shango reshaped with Catholic hell-fires, old French myths of vampires and werewolves… even mysterious Indian gods. In there live the jumbies, the duppies waiting to get you.

Such beliefs were a good enough way to keep the slaves on the plantations, away from the hidden sanctuaries of trees. These were not a place to escape to but rather to escape from. Better the master’s lash than the lick of the lagahoo. And even now, few ever venture there. They may linger at the edges of the darkness, on the banks of fast flowing rivers. But who would go deeper in? The forest lives on in the mind, where the jumbies of our lives are still waiting to get us. Hide.

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