Galleries: Dancehall: In the Wake of Daggering
My dancehall images are about women, fashion, dance, culture and photographs. They are about looking and being seen. They are also about performance, the spectacularity of fashion, style, beauty and identity, offering evidence of a community connected to music and shaped by expressions of sexuality and notions of sensuality.
The photographs are about relationships between men and women; women and women; and men and men. They are also about making a connection between the local brothels and the local dance halls. Between these two spaces, the culture of dancehall is often times transported and as it evolves, the way women are treated usually reflects the decadent origins of the art form.
I began this project to show how dancehall music is evolving. The names of the dances are just one aspect of this shift. For example, when I was a teen, one of the names we used to describe the dance we were engaged in was "cool and deadly"; which was a slow sensual grinding style between a couple. It was a dance where there was a fluid exchange of power between partners, where role-playing was consensual and the exchange between male and female was for the most part respectful. These days these teenagers use names like "daggering", which implies a sharp stabbing, pelvic motion between dance partners. It is a dance where the male assumes the role of power and engages in movements and motions that suggest that he is the one in control. He struts around the floor posturing that he is the "best" dancer on the dance floor.
The nature of dancehall is attached to Jamaica’s everyday life. The general population cannot help but be affected or influenced in some way by the general aesthetics of the music, the poignant lyrics of a popular DJ or the backlash against the neglect by the government. Its beautiful potpourri of fashion, and ever evolving vernacular has helped to propel Jamaica’s culture abroad to countries like Japan and England.
Dancehall celebrates birth, death, relationships, memories and it accompanies norms around politics, music, food, sex, dance and the everyday rituals of an Afro-Jamaican heritage.
Dancehall ultimately represents a celebration of a community. There is a sense that the dance and activities shared in the dancehall typifies the shared activities surrounding the “yard” or tenement type of living.
Dancehall goers also find their inspiration from magazines, brothels, full frontal fashion episodes. They then apply their inspiration to cloth that they buy in the market to create a sense of identity within the dance halls.
Dancehall for me is more than just music. It's what I use to keep up with the politics, news, the vernacular, the fashion and the new dance steps on the island.
This project traces how young girls simulate the dances they pick up from local brothels, to perform them in the local clubs. It also shows the vicious cycle of violence that is played out on Jamaica’s streets.
These images are photographs that question, excite, and engage the viewer about a contemporary culture, focusing on the notion of locating beauty in African American and Afro-Caribbean culture.