Name: Robin Clare
Age: 34
Place of birth: Belize
Current residence: Sydney

Both my parents were Jamaican, but I was born in Belize, making me the first person in my family to be born off the island for at least a century. My parents moved there the previous year so my father could take up his post as a Doctor at the local hospital, but my mother and father divorced before I was born so I never got to know him or met him. My mother and I lived with my grandparents who filled the gap of my absent father very nicely.

I spent most of my early childhood in a bit of a feral state, I hated shoes, loved sitting up in trees and enjoyed getting messy. We moved back to Jamaica when I was four where my stylish mother set up a small dress making and manufacturing business. When I was 12 she died in a car accident and I was sent to live with my family in Canada. I spent my high school years in Canada and moved back to Jamaica briefly before heading over to the UK to study art. I now reside in Sydney and it’s been interesting. Sydney is a stunning city. There’s not really much of a Jamaican presence, but people are curious to know more as most people know a little bit about Jamaica through its musical legacy.

I’m an Artist/Illustrator who loves colour and pattern and it tends to saturate my life more and more. My current work is heavily influenced by Jamaican dancehall culture and party promotions. The commissioned illustration work I’ve done also tends to be related to my own work in style and content. Being able to work with Jamaican themes has been a good way to stay connected to my culture and avoid getting homesick as I’ve spent half my life pining for home.

I wake up at 7:10am every morning since we moved to Sydney, I think there’s a bird living in the tree next to us that mimics an alarm clock. I have a studio at home so it’s not always easy to draw the line between work and home life, but I try to keep to regular office hours like 9 to 5 Monday to Friday. This way I can be sure to make time to get out and have a more rounded existence. I’ve found that if I don’t have that discipline I can get so obsessed with work that I don’t really do much else. Sitting or standing in front of a painting or drawing for hours on end does mess with your back and mind so I try to make time for exercises every day by doing yoga or pilates. It’s been interesting learning that I need to dedicate time to taking care of myself.

The colours and energy of Jamaica has always inspired me and the dancehall scene encapsulates all that. It’s full of ingenuity and unique style – both good and bad. I’m inspired by the whole pop culture that surrounds it from the dances to the fashion to the way it’s promoted. I read somewhere that Jamaica has the most prolific musical output in the world. When I was growing up I remember always being surrounded by people singing, it’s the same still when I go back to visit. Music is such a big part of life on the island. As I can’t sing I paint it in my own way. The paintings are also a way to make sense of what’s going on in the country and try to understand how my culture is evolving.

Jamaican culture is very sexualised and dancehall culture reflects that and feeds into it. As a woman I find it fascinating having lived between Jamaican culture and more reserved cultures in Canada or the UK. Dancehall seems to put everything out there in the open and artists sing praise for women of all colours, sizes and shapes, but they can also overstep and take things to extremes with misogynistic or homophobic lyrics. I do worry about the message that some songs and artiste send to women and younger girls about their place in society, but dancehall is symptom of a deeper problem not the root. I feel that often dancehall is used as a way to have a dialogue about issues in the same way reggae was used in the 70’s and 80’s. Jamaican society in contrast to the ruckus lyrics of dancehall is actually very traditional and many issues don’t get discussed.

To celebrate Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary I am taking part in an exhibition titled Art in the Dance Hall in London. It started out in Birmingham as part of the BASS Festival and opened on 27th July at Puma Yard, Brick Lane, which is the official home of the JA Olympic team. I will also be travelling to Jamaica to celebrate there and hopefully will have more to celebrate with good news from the JA teams Olympic efforts.

It’s taken me a long time to be comfortable as a person and a woman. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to let go of the things I can’t control and concentrate on those that I can. Maintaining strong and positive relationships with family and friends is also very important to me and helps me stay grounded. I am a Complexd Woman because I seem to have the drive to pick up and keep going no matter what happens I keep moving forward!

The Complexd team went to view the Art In the Dancehall exhibiton and bask in Jamaicaness at Puma Yard in Brick Lane London. We definitely recommend paying the Puma Yard a visit, check out our pictures below and for more details click here

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