Carolyn Cooper | From Missis Queen to dancehall and reggae royalty
Missis Queen is dead and buried. But questions linger about her legacy. Why did she hang on to the throne for so long? She really could have given up after 50 years. But she didn’t. She held on to power with all her might. Why did she have to wait for death to dethrone her? Why did Missis Queen keep Prince Charles in a state of indefinite suspension?
There are so many jokes about King Charles’ rather late ascent to the throne. An article on the Mandatory website put it this way: “So now, in the winter of his life, King Charles III has just landed his first job. That should make anyone out there struggling with their career feel better. You still have time to figure things out!”
It’s not only King Charles who has stepped up in life. Queen Consort Camilla has assumed a new title. There’s a wicked meme that says, “To all the side chicks: Just. Keep. Believing.” The word consort has a double meaning. The noun refers to the wife of a reigning monarch. But the verb has a less respectable overtone, as in this definition from Oxford Languages, “habitually associate with (someone), typically with the disapproval of others”. Wives rarely approve of side chicks.
PROTECTED FROM ABUSE
So why didn’t Missis Queen step aside before death toppled her? She was probably familiar with Shakespeare’s play King Lear. In old age, Lear decided to divide his kingdom between his three daughters, based on how much they said they loved him. His first act of folly! Love cannot be quantified. The first and second daughters declared undying love for him. The third was unable to put into words how much she loved her father. He promptly banished her and gave his kingdom to the other two.
Lear had planned to spend the rest of his life residing alternately with his two seemingly loving daughters. But he wanted to retain his boisterous posse of servants. More folly! Lear’s daughters refused to put up with him and them. To cut a very long story short, they all come to a tragic end. Dead, dead, dead! One of the morals of the story appears to be that you cannot give up power and still expect to exercise it.
But Missis Queen would not have suffered Lear’s fate if she had stepped down from the throne. Her massive wealth would have protected her from abuse. According to a CBS News Money Watch report, posted online last month, Missis Queen’s personal fortune was US$500 million. That is quite separate from the Crown Estate, the statutory corporation that manages the monarchy’s real estate holdings worth US$34.3 billion.
So much for Missis Queen! There’s another queen in the news. Not one imposed on us from abroad. She’s royalty born and bred a yard. The movie Dancehall Queen was released on October 10, 1997. It was a spectacular success. The story of Marcia, the downtrodden street vendor who rises to win the crown of dancehall queen is a classic fairy tale. But there’s a dread sub-plot of sexual abuse and murder that makes the film far more complex.
The Institute of Caribbean Studies at The University of the West Indies, Mona; LCD Events, headed by the enterprising Ms Lami Cooper Diallo; actress and filmmaker Annesha Akelia; and Jamaica Films are all collaborating to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of Dancehall Queen. On October 10, the film will be screened at Tracks and Records, Kingston, followed by an afterparty. Tickets can be booked at https://bit.ly/3C2iesE
On October 11, beginning at 12:00 p.m., there will be a symposium on the film. First, there will be a panel discussion featuring the directors, screenwriters, editor and several members of the cast. Rick Elgood, Audrey Reid, Carl Davis, Carl Bradshaw and Suzanne Fenn are confirmed speakers. Next, the keynote presentation will be given by Dr Rachel Moseley-Wood, author of the award-winning book, Show Us as We Are: Place, Nation and Identity in Jamaican Film.
In the final session, Leslie-Ann Fullerton, who wrote her Master’s thesis at the University of Toronto on women in dancehall; Agostinho Pinnock, a PhD student at Loughborough University; and Georgette McGlashen-Miller, an MA student at The University of the West Indies, Mona, will give their perspective on Dancehall Queen. Additional information on the symposium will be posted on the website of the Institute of Caribbean Studies: https://www.mona.uwi.edu/humed/ics/.
‘PORTRAITS OF JAMAICA’
A vibrant display of dancehall and reggae royalty is at the Regional Headquarters of the University of the West Indies. ‘Portraits of Jamaica’ is a captivating exhibition of posters by Greek graphic designer Maria Papaefstathiou, co-founder with Michael ‘Freestylee’ Thompson of the International Reggae Poster Contest. VP Records commissioned Maria to design their 2022 calendar, highlighting “Women of Jamaican music 1962-2022”. She created posters of Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt, J.C. Lodge, Carlene Davis, Tanya Stephens, Queen Ifrica, Jah9, Nadine Sutherland, Shensea and Spice. Most of these are in the exhibition.
Men of Jamaican music are also featured in Maria’s ‘Portraits of Jamaica’: Monty Alexander, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Burning Spear, Peter Tosh, Copeland Forbes, Kingsley Cooper, Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley, Beenie Man and Capleton. Maria’s brilliant posters of Jamaican icons include Louise Bennett-Coverley, Olive Lewin and Patricia ‘Miss Pat’ Chin, co-founder with Vincent Chin of VP Records. Then, there are the national heroes Norman Manley, Alexander Bustamante and George William Gordon.
Not to be missed, the stellar exhibition runs until October 9. Opening hours are 8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Monday to Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Maria Papaefstathiou’s beautifully rendered portraits are a powerful testimony to the global reach of Jamaican culture.