Unstylish Ejection From VIP Seat


It all started with an email from our MP to the citizens’ association offering tickets to a StyleWeek event last Sunday. Gifts from politicians usually come with lots of strings attached. The exchange often goes like this: I’ll give you $5,000 wrapped up in a designer T-shirt and you’d better vote for me. Or else! But this wasn’t election season. So I took the MP’s email at face value:

“Complimentary tickets are available for FashionBlock. When: Sunday, May 28th 2017, starting at 8pm. Where: Knutsford Blvd. Please email me to let me know how many tickets you need. Thanks.” I didn’t have anything planned for that evening, so I decided to take up the offer. I was rather surprised to see on the ticket that admission was free.

A complimentary ticket is not quite the same as a free ticket. Usually, a complimentary ticket is given as a courtesy to attend a paid event. Not a free show. Getting a complimentary ticket for a free event from an MP was a lot like feeling obliged to be grateful that politicians are actually doing the job for which they are elected. And for which they are paid!

Anyhow, I put aside my reservations and headed to New Kingston. I parked at the lot at the corner of Barbados and St Lucia avenues, where some young men had a good hustle charging $200 for entry. I firmly pointed out the fact that this was a government parking lot, which should be free on a Sunday evening. They apologised, waved me in, and kept right on charging other patrons.




I went to the closest entrance to the Fashionblock event, at the corner of Knutsford Boulevard and Barbados Avenue. Unfortunately, I hadn’t read my complimentary ticket carefully enough. That entrance was only for VIPs. My free ticket said: “out barrier, restaurant side.” And it was standing room only.


Now I am not one of those people whose navel string is buried under a VIP tree. But there was no other seating. And I had no intention of standing up to watch “Jamaica’s Biggest Fashion Event Ever”. By the way, that tag line reminds me of Sean Spicer’s ‘covfefe’ declaration that Donald Trump’s inauguration crowd was the biggest ever. Period.

I asked if I could get a VIP ticket, and a nice young man went off to find out. He returned with a young woman who let me in and ushered me to a seat. But she didn’t give me a ticket. About half an hour later, before the show had even started, she came back and told me she was at risk of losing her job. He had broken the rules by putting me in the VIP section. So I had to go “out barrier”.

I asked if there was no one who could allow me to stay. She said no. The lady she would have to ask was not around. Earlier, Dewight Peters, who was putting on the show, had greeted me in passing. I don’t suppose the young woman thought she could ask him to give me a VIP ticket. She escorted me to the exit and I headed straight home.

This story has several morals: 1) beware of ‘freeness’ from politicians; 2) always read the fine print; 3) do not ask for and accept favours from powerless people; 4) know when to retreat; 5) always remember that where bones are not provided, dogs are not invited. In this instance: Where VIP tickets are not provided, certain people are not invited.





Earlier that day, I’d gone to Arts in the Park at Devon House. That was an excellent event for which neither a free nor a complimentary ticket was needed. It’s a pity it didn’t seem to have been well advertised. Lots of young artists were exhibiting their work and there was live music. A small exhibition from the JCDC art competition is at one of the shops. The main show is located at the Jamaica Conference Centre.

The National Gallery hosted a panel discussion on the Jamaica Biennial 2017, which closed that day in Kingston. The exhibition at Gallery West in MoBay goes on for another month. A very contentious issue came up. VIP artists are invited to exhibit. Less-important artists have to submit their work for evaluation. If they’re lucky, they get picked. Hopefully, this unfair system will soon be phased out. All artists should have an equal chance to be accepted or rejected.

From Devon House, I went to The Pantry on Dumfries Road, where the artists Philip and Marcia Henry were hosting ‘The Gathering’, an exhibition featuring masters like Alexander Cooper, George Rodney and Ireko Baker, as well as many younger artists. Philip’s Ambokele Vibration drummers and guest artists were in full flight. It was a beautiful marriage of art and music.

There is so much creative energy in Kingston: music, art, literature, fashion and a whole lot more! Last Monday, Jamaica’s first Centre of Gastronomy was launched at Devon House. This Friday, Caribbean Fashionweek starts at Villa Ronai in Stony Hill. With its lush sculpture gardens, the venue was a premier destination for cruise ship passengers coming into Kingston Harbour in the 1960s. In spite of our social and economic challenges, Kingston is a capital city. And not just for VIPs!


Patwa Gold Chain Inna Fashion Show

Two spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below. The first, which I call ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling. The second, ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist phonetic system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy. It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.



It sweet mi so til! Patwa step up inna life an a bling pon gold chain. Di Friday night a Caribbean Fashion Week (CFW), mi buck up one journalist mi know long time. Im name Rob Kenner an im fly een from New York fi CFW. Im run Boomshots.com an im av one TV show pon Youtube an one Internet radio show. Im deh all bout.

Rob did a wear one chain hitch on pon one piece a plastic. Mi aks im a wa dat. Wen mi look good mi see seh di plastic did cut out fi show writin. An guess weh it a seh? TUN UP. Rob tell mi seh a one a im fren mek di chain an she deh pon di fashion show dat deh night. Im ha fi represent.

ReshmaB-chains-CFW2015-selfie-BOOMSHOTSDi designer name Reshma B. She a music journalist an she call herself Reggae Girl About Town (RGAT). Fi her website a bawl out. Reshma born a London an from she a pikni she a listen reggae music. An she love Jamaica culture an fi wi language. One a di first gold chain she mek a REGGAE GAL.

Everywhere Reshma go, people a aks ar bout di chain dem. So she mek up her mind fi launch di line last year an she call it Reshma B chains. Rob do one interview wid her weh come out inna April inna Vibe magazine. Hear weh she seh: “I’m inspired by the street slang in my travels from London to Brooklyn to Kingston”.

Some a di Jamaican liriks pon di chain dem a DASH OUT, BRUCK OUT, SLAP WEH, BENZ PUNANY an MAAD. Some a di other word dem a TRILL, WAVY, FADED, RATCHET, SWAG an NANG. An Reshma just put out some new chain wid so-so ganja leaf.


Out a di whole a di chain dem, di one weh sell off nof nof a WAH GWAN. Mi did ha fi tell Reshma seh WAH GWAN no spell right. She lef off one a di A inna GWAAN. An she shuda put one next A inna di miggle a WAH an GWAAN. Dat naa stop di chain dem from sell.

An wen mi tink bout it, mi see seh same way wi fix up English fi suit wi, a di said same way English people a fix up fi wi language fi suit dem. Dem a chat patwa wid English accent. So ‘wa a gwaan’ turn inna ‘wa gwan’. An wi dis ha fi lou dem. Wi cyaan chain up fi wi language. It change up wen it go a foreign. Same like reggae music.

chain2Reshma B du special chain fi all kind a cebrelity. Popcaan did love WAH GWAN chruu Worl Boss did av one liriks weh im aks, “Wa a gwaan Papcaan?” So im link Reshma an she mek a chain fi im an im Unruly Crew: TR8. Dat stan fi “Straight”. Popcaan seh, “Real thugs never figet di dump land or weh we come fram”.

An lickle before Reshma come a Caribbean Fashion Week, she mek up one special order fi Madonna fi ar “Rebel Heart” tour. Seet deh! Mi av nof rispek fi Reshma B. Shi done know bout ‘total fashion’, as mi breda, Kingsley, seh inna di ad fi CFW.

An talking bout cebrelity, all a unu weh did read mi column two week aback, “Celebrity Wedding at UWI Chapel”, an did a aks mi fi picture a Erica Reid an Nardo Currie, unu better buy Gleaner. Dem inna Flair magazine. TUN UP!


It swiit mi so til! Patwa step op ina laif an a bling pan guol chien. Di Fraide nait a Caribbean Fashion Week (CFW), mi bok op wan jornalis mi nuo lang taim. Im niem Rob Kenner an im flai iin fram New York fi CFW. Im ron Boomshots.com an im av wan TV shuo pan Yuuchuub an wan Intanet riedyo shuo. Im de aal bout.

Rob did a wier wan chien ich aan pan wan piis a plastik. Mi aks im a wa dat. Wen mi luk gud mi si se di plastik did kot out fi shuo raitn. An ges we it a se? TUN UP. Rob tel mi se a wan a im fren mek di chien an shi de pan di fashan shuo dat de nait. Im a fi reprizent.

ReshmaB-chains-CFW2015-13Di dizaina niem Reshma B. Shi a myuuzik jornalis an shi kaal arself Reggae Girl About Town (RGAT). Fi ar websait a baal out. Reshma baan a London an fram shi a pikni shi a lisn rege myuuzik. An shi lov Jamieka kolcha an fi wi langgwij. Wan a di fos guol chien shi mek a REGGAE GAL.

Evri we Reshma go, piipl a aks ar bout di chien dem. So shi mek op ar main fi laanch di lain laas ier an shi kaal it Reshma B chains. Rob du wan intavyuu wid ar we kom out ina Iepril ina Vibe magazine. Ier we shi se: “I’m inspired by the street slang in my travels from London to Brooklyn to Kingston”.

Som a di Jamaican liriks pan di chien dem a DASH OUT, BRUCK OUT, SLAP WEH, BENZ PUNANY an MAAD. Som a di ada word dem a TRILL, WAVY, FADED, RATCHET, SWAG an NANG. An Reshma jos put out som nyuu chien wid suoso gyanja liif.


Out a di uol a di chien dem, di wan we sel aaf nof nof a WAH GWAN. Mi did ha fi tel Reshma se WAH GWAN no spel rait. Shi lef aaf wan a di A ina GWAAN. An shi shuda put wan neks A ina di migl a WAH an GWAAN. Dat naa stap di chien dem fram sel.

reggae_RGATCHAINSwahgwanbigsmall1An wen mi tink bout it, mi si se siem wie wi fiks op Ingglish fi suut wi, a di sed siem wie Ingglish piipl a fiks op fi wi langgwij fi suut dem. Dem a chat patwa wid Ingglish aksent. So ‘wa a gwaan’ ton ina ‘wa gwan’. An wi dis a fi lou dem. Wi kyaahn chien op fi wi langgwij. It chienj op wen it go a farin. Siem laik rege myuuzik.

Reshma B du speshal chien fi aal kain a sibreliti. Popcaan did lov WAH GWAN chruu Worl Boss did av wan liriks we im aks, “Wa a gwaan Popcaan?” So im link Reshma an shi mek a chien fi im an im Unruly Crew: TR8. Dat stan fi “Straight”. Popcaan se, “Riil tugz neva figet di domp lan ar we wi kom fram”.

An likl bifuor Reshma kom a Caribbean Fashion Week, shi mek op wan speshal aada fi Madonna fi ar “Rebel Heart” tour. Siit de! Mi av nof rispek fi Reshma B. Shi don nuo bout ‘total fashion’, az mi breda, Kingsley, se ina di ad fi CFW.

An taakin bout sibreliti, aal a unu we did riid mi kalam tuu wiik abak, “Celebrity Wedding at UWI Chapel”, an did a aks mi fi pikcha a Erica Reid an Nardo Currie, unu beta bai Gleaner. Dem ina Flair magaziin. TUN UP!


I was really amused.  Patwa has gone upmarket and is blinging on gold chains. The Friday night of Caribbean Fashion Week (CFW), I ran into a journalist I’ve known for quite some time. He’s Rob Kenner and he flew in from New York for CFW. He runs Boomshots.com and he has a TV show on Youtube and an Internet radio show. So he’s large.

Rob was wearing a chain with a bit of plastic attached. I asked him about it. When I looked closely, I saw letters cut out of the plastic.   And guess what the word was? TUN UP. Rob told me that one of his friends had made the chain and she was on the fashion show that night. He had to represent.

11094513_953402994711747_1889982551_nThe designer was Reshma B. She’s a music journalist who goes by the name Reggae Girl About Town (RGAT).  Her website is hot. Reshma was born in London and she became a reggae fan quite early.   She loves Jamaican culture and our language.

Everywhere Reshma went, she was asked about the chains. So she decided to launch the line last year.  And she called it Reshma B chains. Rob did an interview with her that was published in April in Vibe magazine. Here’s what she said: “I’m inspired by the street slang in my travels from London to Brooklyn to Kingston”.

Some of the Jamaican expressions on the chains are DASH OUT, BRUCK OUT, SLAP WEH, BENZ PUNANY and MAAD.  There’s also TRILL, WAVY, FADED, RATCHET, SWAG and NANG. And Reshma just put out some new chains with a ganja leaf desgin.


OF all the chains, the bestseller is WAH GWAN.  I had to tell Reshma that WAH GWAN wasn’t spelt correctly.  An A was left out of GWAAN. And she should have put another one between WAH and GWAAN. That’s not affecting sales at all.

And when I thought about it, it struck me that just as we adapt English to suit ourselves, English people adapt our language to suit themselves in exactly the same way. They speak patwa with an English accent. So ‘wa a gwaan’ becomes ‘wa gwan’. And we just have to let it be. We can’t chain our language. It changes when it goes abroad. Just like reggae music.

MASSIV-PopUpShop-KGN-JA-Dec-18-2014-ReshmaB-Chains-URL-TopReshma B does custom chains for all sorts of celebrities. Popcaan loved WAH GWAN because Worl Boss had a song in which he asked, “Wa a gwaan Popcaan?” So he got in touch with Reshma and she made a chain for him and his Unruly Crew: TR8. That’s “Straight”. As Popcaan says, “Real thugs never figet di dump land or weh we come fram” [Real thugs never forget the dumped up land or where we come from].

And just before Reshma came to Caribbean Fashion Week, she did a special order for Madonna for her “Rebel Heart” tour. There you have it! I have a lot of respect for Reshma B. She understands ‘total fashion’, as my brother Kingsley, says in the ad for CFW.

And talking about celebrities, all of you who read my post, “Celebrity Wedding at UWI Chapel”, and were asking for pictures of Erica Reid and Nardo Currie, you must buy the Gleaner. They’re in Flair magazine. TUN UP

Dressed For Murder


Dwayne Jones

DWAYNE JONES probably thought he was dressed to kill when he stepped out to that fateful dance. He couldn’t have known he was going to be the prey. But he must have realised he was making a risky fashion statement. After all, the dance was taking place just outside ‘Gyal-tego’ Bay.

That’s the new name for Montego Bay in the twisted vocabulary of super-sensitive Jamaican males. And Mandeville is now ‘Gyal-deville’. It’s not a joke. It’s a very serious matter. Sexually insecure men are so fearful of appearing to be homosexual that they cannot go into a ‘man’ town or city. Only gyal.

images-1It’s the same ‘reason’ bad man don’t eat guinep. Dem don’t suck seed. And, despite all the bravado, they don’t succeed in hiding their weakness. If you have to go to such extremes to reassure yourself that you are a real-real man, something must be fundamentally wrong.

It’s the fear of being tainted by homosexuality that drives irrational males to commit acts of violence against so-called sexual deviants. In Jamaica, even cross-dressing is seen as a provocative sign of other crosses. But most male cross-dressers are not homosexual. And both men and women cross-dress for a variety of reasons. It should be nobody’s business but their own.


The diabolical mob that murdered Dwayne Jones must have been made up of men and women who believe that cross-dressing is sinful behaviour. The Bible is to blame. Deuteronomy 22:5 declares: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.”

Portrait of a young man wearing a sarong, Hawaii, USAThe problem with applying the abomination rule to fashion is the indisputable fact that there is no universal standard of male and female dress. Gendered dress styles vary across cultures. In some parts of the world, men wear kilts and sarongs. They may look like skirts. But they are not ‘female’ dress. Many Fundamentalist Christian women don’t wear pants because that “pertaineth unto a man”. I suppose these pious women do wear underpants. Not to do so would certainly be an abomination.

The word ‘abomination’ turns up a lot in the Bible. But it’s not only homosexuality and cross-dressing that are abominations. There are lots of other sins that self-righteous fanatics conveniently forget. Adultery is an abomination. But if we were to stone adulterers to death in Jamaica, there would hardly be any of us left.

7-abominable-sinsProverbs 6:16-19 gives a long list of abominations that includes shedding innocent blood: “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren”. That primitive mob outside ‘Gyal-tego’ Bay was clearly very selective about their abominations. Their feet swiftly ran to mischief, shedding Dwyane’s innocent blood.


CFW-CARIBBEAN-FASHION-WEEKMost of us are much more sophisticated than those anonymous murderers. Take, for instance, the patrons at Caribbean Fashion Week. For the last several years, two male cross-dressers come to the event and no one would think of attacking them. In fact, I’ve seen other patrons taking pictures with them. They are part of the fashion scene.

The only judgemental response to them I’ve gotten is from a woman who heard one of them in the women’s restroom asking for toilet paper. “Fi wipe wa?”, she wondered. We have a wicked way of getting right down to the nitty-gritty. I did laugh at the observation. But laughter is a far cry from murder.

Layout1_1_P6O22CFWcpfsDAMFashion is often about transgressing boundaries. It’s about role play. In 2009, the Trinidadian designer Claudia Pegus stirred up quite a bit of excitement at Caribbean Fashion Week. All her models wore masks. At the end of the set, one of the female models returned to the stage and unmasked. She was actually a male cross-dresser. In an article in The Gleaner, published on June 16, 2009, the reporter noted the “awe” and “in some cases disgust” that the male model’s performance of female identity had provoked.

Some Jamaicans may be uncomfortable with this kind of masquerade. But Trinidad and Tobago is the land of mas. On Carnival Monday, cross-dressing men use pillows to create big buttocks and breasts. They wear wigs and dresses. It’s all playful. It’s not about an identity crisis. Men play women and women play men. And they even play themselves.



Jonkonnu Bellywoman

We don’t have to go all the way to Trinidad and Tobago to appreciate the arts of role play. We have our own forms of traditional masquerade and cross-dressing. Just think about jonkunnu. The Bellywoman character is usually a man dressed as a pregnant woman. And she gets a lot of laughs as she jiggles her fake belly while dancing.

There was a time when jonkunnu maquerades were seen as an abomination. They were vulgar and sinful. In 1841, the Mayor of Kingston banned the ‘John Canoe’ parade – as the word was then spelled. The current spelling acknowledges the African elements in the ritual. The banning of the parade caused a riot. Angry revellers clashed with the Militia and the Mayor had to run for cover. He was forced to retreat to a ship in Kingston Harbour.

hygiene-health-safetyIt’s a real tragedy that Dwayne Jones wasn’t so lucky. There was no place of safety for him in ‘Gyal-tego’ Bay. A 17-year-old child was slaughtered because he was only trying to play himself. His murderers must be brought to justice.

A mob is made up of individuals who choose to suspend responsibility for their actions. As a society, we cannot afford to follow suit. In this season, as we celebrate Emancipation and Independence, we must liberate ourselves from those biblical ‘abominations’ that threaten to turn us all into truly abominable brutes.

Follow Fashion Monkey

Jamaican proverbial wisdom warns that ‘follow fashion monkey never drink good soup.’  Of course, not all monkeys are particular about the soup they drink.  Some are quite happy to follow fashion – good, bad and indifferent. Monkey see, monkey do. For discriminating monkeys, originality does matter.  They set the fashion trends that others slavishly follow.

Let me make it absolutely clear that I’m using both ‘fashion’ and ‘monkey’ in exactly the same symbolic sense as the proverb does.  The primary issue is neither tasteless fashion nor hairy primates drinking soup.  It’s about creative people who don’t simply mimic others – in whatever field:  culinary arts, architecture, music, IT, and, of course, fashion.

Proverbial wisdom from another culture authoritatively declares that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.’  We know how that goes. We’re accustomed to being copied:  our music, language, body language, fashion and religion.  Even our distinctive style of ‘badness’ attracts imitators. And if we don’t feel flattered that’s just too bad for us. We’re supposed to be grateful.

But imitation often looks a lot like downright theft. Plus, you can’t take flattery to the bank. In an age in which intellectual property does have real value, it’s not flattering to have your creative ideas stolen. You can’t just let people monkey around with your intangible assets. Protection of rights is essential.

‘Fashion over style’

All the same, some imitation is positively good, especially when it drives healthy competition and gives consumers choice.  An excellent case in point is our weeks of style and fashion. Pulse Investments Ltd. first staged Caribbean Fashionweek in 2001.  Saint International followed suit in 2004 with Style Week.

It was dancehall icon Gerald ‘Bogle’ Levy who popularised the quip, ‘fashion over style.’  He got the ranking right.  Admittedly, I’m prejudiced. Pulse’s CEO is my brother, Kingsley.  Objectively speaking though, he’s one of the most enterprising people I know.  Who would have thought that Jamaica could have created an international modelling agency?  Let alone two, and counting.

Saint’s CEO Deiwght Peters was once employed by Pulse.  He learnt all he could then set up shop.  Saint models have followed in the footsteps of the Pulse originals and have also done Jamaica proud.  I suppose Kingsley really ought to feel flattered by Deiwght’s imitation of the inventiveness for which the Pulse brand is widely known.

The case of Caribbean International Fashion Week is a whole other story.  If you googled ‘Caribbean Fashion Week’ last week, the first item that came up as news from New York was this: ‘IMAN Cosmetics to be the Exclusive Makeup Sponsor for Caribbean International Fashion Week.’

Believe it or not, this US-based Caribbean Fashion Week has absolutely nothing to do with the Jamaican original.

But the publicity for the event brazenly started off using the name ‘Caribbean Fashion Week’ and even appropriated Pulse’s CFW logo in an apparent attempt to pass off the imitation as the original. Kingsley, who is an attorney-at-law first and foremost, quickly put a stop to that. The belated addition of ‘international’ still doesn’t distinguish the copy from the original.  Our Jamaican event has always been international.

On top of that, the New York version was scheduled to premier last Wednesday, the very same week that Pulse’s Caribbean Fashionweek 2011 kicked off.  The organisers of Style Week have the good sense to try to upstage Fashionweek by coming first and at a decent interval – in the month before.  By contrast, Top Job (TJ) Public Relations, the promoter of Caribbean International Fashion Week, is doing a great job of deliberately creating confusion.

Protecting Jamaican brands

Glenda Lugay

I guess Kingsley could feel flattered if he tried really hard.  Glenda Lugay, CEO of TJ Public Relations, came to Caribbean Fashionweek in 2008 to promote one of her clients, Sushma Patel, a designer from India whose iridescent creations express the bling aesthetic of traditional saris.

Ms Lugay seems to have liked what she saw at CFW and decided to run with it.  All very well and good.  But she needed to give credit where credit is due.

Ironically, TJ Public Relations doesn’t seem to be practicing what the company preaches.  According to the website of the Beverly Hills-based firm, TJ ‘works with a variety of entrepreneurs and small businesses in areas such as brand management and consulting.’  Brand management is not the same as unfairly exploiting a ‘foreign’ brand.

Jamaican companies face a major difficulty as we try to protect our brands overseas.  Successive governments have not signed on to the Madrid system for the international registration of trademarks.  The system comprises the 1891 Madrid Agreement and the less restrictive 1989 Madrid Protocol, which are administered by the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva.

The advantage of the Jamaican government’s signing on to the Madrid Protocol is that a trademark registered here would eventually be protected in all the countries in the system.  So Pulse’s Caribbean Fashionweek trademark couldn’t be ‘imitated’ in the US, which is a signatory to the Madrid Protocol.

At present, Jamaican companies have to register their marks individually in every single country in which they are seeking protection.
This is a costly business.  It would be so much cheaper to pay one set of fees locally and benefit from international coverage.

The advantage of the Madrid system is also its disadvantage.  Local registration is ‘married’ to international.  If the terms of local registration are altered, so are the international.  But, as in a good marriage, the pros of entanglement often do outweigh the cons of going it alone. The Jamaican government really should make it much easier for owners of locally registered trademarks to protect their intellectual property globally – for better or worse.