Janeen Johnson: Writing Portfolio

Portfolio

My Mission is to become an accomplished writer internationally and in Jamaica, my home country. This page highlights my published work in print and online. 

 

 

 

Article- A Controversial 'Redemption Song' - HE Naturist Magazine (UK)- July 2008 Issue.

     The Emancipation Park in Kingston, Jamaica was built to commemorate the Emancipation of Slavery in 1838 and as a gift to the Jamaican people and visitors of the country. The Government of Jamaica commissioned a statue for the park to embody this historical freedom event. Sculptor, Laura Facey-Cooper won the bid and in July 2003 her piece entitled “Redemption Song” was erected and unveiled at the park’s main entrance.

 

     The sculpture featured an 11ft bronze cast male and 10ft female standing in water, facing each other and looking above. The base of the statue bore the words “None but ourselves can free our minds”; a quote borrowed from Marcus Garvey and popularized by the iconic Bob Marley in his tune “Redemption Song”, which coincidentally bears the same title as the statue. At first, it seemed as if the artist had succeeded in capturing the essence of freedom as the images in the water symbolized a rebirth, rising from the bondage of the past and looking forward with hopes of a new beginning.

 

     This brilliant piece of artistry brought more than hope and optimism to the Jamaican people. Its unveiling sparked myriad heated discussions and controversial debates in the former British colony, for the months that followed.

     Why? Apparently, the fact that the bronze cast couple were naked enraged quite a few persons. Many argued that it was inappropriate for such an image to be placed in a public park where children would visit. Some even vowed that they would never take their families there. The religious leaders and self righteous academics believed it was a shining example of the moral decay that was facing the society. There were endless newspaper articles and radio talk show programs dedicated to “Redemption Song”. One journalist joked that it was the governments’ attempt to elude the public’s attention to the problems in the failing economy.

 

     The statue invoked prurience, as the size of the male’s shaft became a hot topic of interest. A few talks emerged of the lady’s large firm breasts and pointy nipples but they were by far, overshadowed by the inappropriateness of the well endowed male. I assume that a few men may have suffered from an inferiority complex as it is unfathomable that any woman would complain. For weeks, talks of culture, religion and moral standards plagued the media airwaves, along with public outcries for the removal of the controversial work of art. In the end the P.J. Patterson led government decided that the 4.5 million Jamaican Dollar (roughly ₤28,000) investment was there to stay.

    

     It’s been five years since the unveiling of “Redemption Song”. Except for occasional snickers of cheeky children and bashful adults, there has been little mention of what is undoubtedly one of the most famous sculptures in Jamaica. The two ex-slaves are still proudly rising above water, looking towards a brighter tomorrow and it seems the same can be said of the Jamaican people. In recent years, globalization, travel and increasing exposure to other cultures is gradually broadening the minds and views of the Caribbean people.  Many have begun to embrace their sexuality and shed their inhibitions beyond the borders of alluring beach resorts.  However, there’ll always be persons who think the human body should be covered in shame instead of celebrated for the beautiful and fascinating vessel that it is. It will be a while before naturism is widely accepted, although ironically Jamaica is home to Hedonism II and III, two of the most sought after nudist resorts in the western world.

 

     An island famous for its lush green mountains and country sides, charismatic blue-green glistening waters and white sandy beaches, Jamaica remains a naturist’s paradise despite the cultural and religious beliefs of its people. 

 

BookEnds -Jamaica Observer- Photo Story: Reaching The  Reach

 

‘Reaching’ The Reach

By Janeen Johnson

 

 
  Portland is my favourite parish in Jamaica. Its rain-forest like beauty and quiet charm is almost impossible to resist. I’ve never had an opportunity to see the local attractions, so with a brochure recommendation and the assistance of a Road Map I decided to visit Reach Falls. The drive from Kingston to Portland was supposedly an hour but poor road conditions added another thirty minutes. My excitement grew as I drove through Port Antonio, the parish capital. Soon, I’d be washing away my obstacle filled journey in the enchanting waters of Reach Falls. My drive from thereon was rather pleasant, the fresh country air and views of glistening blue-green sea water was a welcoming change from the heavily constructed sights of Kingston. After forty minutes and two brief stops, I spotted a sign indicating that my destination was a mile ahead.
     The uphill path was bordered by lofty trees and overgrown bushes, everything amazingly verdant despite three months of drought. Suddenly, I came upon a group of men signalling me to stop. I was a bit hesitant but pulled over nonetheless. A young man approached, informing me that the falls had been closed for renovation for almost two years. The news was a bit difficult to digest but he further explained that for a small fee, I could still visit the facility. Apparently he had been a guide at Reach Falls, but since its closure he resorted to offering private tours to the occasional misinformed visitor like me.  I briefly considered his proposition then agreed. It would have been pointless to leave without seeing this covert falls. My new guide hopped on the back seat for the rest of the ride.
     Upon arrival, the property’s entrance was blocked by large branches and another “welcoming committee” of two. It was only after recognising the guide that they allowed us to continue on foot. There were no visible signs of renovation. Instead, I was greeted by a dilapidated wooden security post and a partially burnt concrete structure, which appeared to have been a Snack Shop. Dampened by disappointment, I slowly walked by unkempt bushes and little garbage piles before reaching the entrance of the falls.
     After carefully descending a small flight of steps, I found myself amidst a surprisingly breathtaking product of nature. Dozens of beautiful wild birds fluttered happily in trees surrounding a falls. Water cascaded rapidly from large rocks, forming a crystal stream below, about a chain from where I stood.  With renewed excitement, I hastily discarded my flip-flops to enter the shallow part of the brook. The afternoon sun sparkled in the cool water, highlighting the millions of multicoloured pebbles beneath my feet. I was overwhelmed with mixed emotions; somewhat angered by the proprietor’s negligence in maintaining the facility yet elated that I was enjoying a wonderful slice of paradise. Minutes later, I immersed in the water, allowing my grouses to temporarily concede. In that moment I became one with nature. I surrendered to the mystic of Reach Falls.
     Since my visit in May of 2006, I’ve learnt that the facility has been reopened to the public.
Their website, www.reachfalls.com has pictures of the property and other local attractions. I am planning another trip later this year as I am eager to see the improvements that have been made.

BookEnds -Jamaica Observer- Photo Story: Bruges- "The Venice of the North"

 

Bruges- “The Venice of the North”
By Janeen Johnson

     After three weeks in Brussels I thought I had seen it all, the magnificence of the monuments and the grandeur of architecture that Europeans so prize themselves on. It wasn’t difficult to adjust to the sinful Belgian lifestyle of chocolate flowing freely from every shop on the corner of every street and beer wasn’t assumed to mean a Red Stripe but could be any one of a hundred brands. I was in a place where asking for ketchup in a restaurant was an unforgivable act but a glass of wine at breakfast was a way of life. Though I loved the experience and appreciated the difference in culture, I longed for a patty just as much as I yearned to find a pastime other than visiting museums. My trip was coming close to an end but time hadn’t allowed me to see much outside of the capital city. It was a last minute decision which almost didn’t happen but thankfully it did as it changed the outcome of my entire trip.

     I was in awe from the very moment I exited the train station. Instead of German made automobiles scurrying about on the streets, scores of bicycles were parked neatly outside of the station whilst dozens were in motion. It was as if I had walked into a bicycle convention. Bicycles were apparently a very popular mode of transportation for the young and young at heart. As I went deeper in the city and walked across acres of well manicured, storybook-green coloured lawns, my fascination grew. Nothing had prepared me for the beauty and charming characteristics of this medieval city, Bruges.

      Bruges is the capital of the West Flanders province in the North- Western region of Belgium and is predominantly Dutch. It’s known to many in Europe and across the world as the “Venice of the North” because it bears many similarities to the Italian city. Picturesque bridges and canals flowing through the city centre contribute to its aesthetic and romantic appeal. I was captivated by all the elements of my surroundings, beautiful white swans glided gracefully atop the canal as couples merrily went by in boats.  On the narrow grey bricked streets, cars yielded and made way for horse-drawn carriages whilst wide-eyed tourists were busy snapping away with their cameras.  It was if I had ventured into a fantasy world.

     Enchanting tearooms and sidewalk cafes where one could feast on freshly made Belgian waffles were common fixtures in Bruges, but not as common as delectable hand-made pralines being displayed in the windows of local Chocolatiers. In Bruges, chocolate is more than a sweet treat, it’s a culture and I was happy to embrace it. 

      I wandered about the city for hours, never once tired or bored. Grand castle-like cathedrals and museums stood proudly in the city centre. Whether it was a house or shops bearing intricately designed Belgian lace, each building seemed to have a story to tell. Bright floral arrangements and flags adorned the window sills of red and brown brick buildings with orange roofs. This delightful city captured my heart.

     Bruges’ unrivalled beauty, deeply rooted traditions and well preserved heritage makes it a city well worth visiting.

 

Poetry- Published on Poetry.com

In The City Of York,The Twentyfirst Century.

What a wonderful day,life as we know it is good,
people are off to acheive their goals, to
fulfill their purpose.
Dreams and aspirations linger in the air,
will I be the next millionaire?
The sky is beautiful,oh blessed city,with so much to be thankful for.
In split seconds my peace of mind was disturbed,
by loud cries for help,thousands of footsteps;
the great Twin Towers were on fire.
Everything was at a standstill;
the city of York was burning,
the twin brothers had fallen just like Nostradamos had said.
Hopes, dreams,promises became mere ashes.
Why oh Lord? Why so many?
Will there ever be another normal day?
What a wonderful day; or is it?

Janeen Johnson

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