The Childhood Memories Series
This is one of my favorite images and I was delighted when it was shown in the Jamaica Biennial 2012-2013. The woman in the photograph is my grandmother. The landscape of which she is a part is the Nonsuch district in Jamaica where she still lives. When I look at this photograph I see a cousin of mine, Tanya, who has the exact face as my grandmother.
This is the only image I have of myself as a baby. In so many ways the most riveting part for me of this photograph is the small black purse that I am clutching. There are so many stories in my family about how much I loved this purse and how I would pick it up and get ready to go walking through the gate, exactly like I saw my mother and my grandmother doing.
As a child I thought my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. I felt that I could stare at my mother forever and never get tired of looking at her. In fact, I remember for a long time being very disappointed that I was not as dark as my mother, because, for me, my mother’s darkness was the source of her intense beauty. In time my mother became part of a landscape whose beauty I never tire of, the parish of Portland, which is the parish my mother is from in Jamaica.
After my mother left Jamaica for the United States I ended up being raised by my aunts and my uncles. For the longest while I searched and searched for a way to realize an image that would honor the work my aunts and my uncles did in raising me and my siblings. After years of trying I finally “received” this image and it is still difficult for me to put into words what this image all means to me, except to say it means something incredibly important, and the person in the image is my Uncle Moses.
This is an image of my great grandfather whom I knew quite well as a child and a young adult. I think I was 18 or so when he died. This man was a rock. He gave my family the footing that we would need to venture out into the world. I remember all the walks we took together. All the stories he told. My great grandfather was very light skinned; he was what I have called “Jamaica white.” As a child I would run my fingers through his hair, wondering why it was so different from everyone else’s; and I would wonder what gave his eyes the color they had. I remember him laughing and laughing and being quite patient with me and all the questions I asked him.
My Great Grandmother
Her name was Celeste and I still think she was the most remarkable person I ever met. She loved all her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren with a fierce, protective love. To everyone else she was a terror. Not someone to be trifled with at all. She was an excellent patch-work quilt-maker and I am lucky enough to own some of her quilts. When I think about my great-grandmother I always think about the generations of us that sprung from her.
Nonsuch is a small district high in the purple-blue mountains of Jamaica. I spent just about every summer there as a child. This is where most of my relatives still live; or the place to which we always return. I have so many relatives buried in the Nonsuch cemetery. Here the roots of my family tree are deep. Here, among the people of Nonsuch, I know that I belong.
Jacqueline Bishop is an award-winning photographer-painter-writer born and raised in Jamaica, who now lives and works in New York City (“Jamaica’s 15th Parish”). She has twice been awarded Fulbright Fellowships, including a year-long grant to Morocco; her work exhibits widely in North America, Europe and North Africa. She also teaches Liberal Studies at New York University; is the founding editor of Calabash: A Journal of Caribbean Art & Letters; and author of The River’s Song, a novel about growing up in Jamaica.
See: www.jacqueline-bishop.com. Besides Childhood Memories, Ms. Bishop has also completed two other collections of photographs entitled Folly and Facing Africa.