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Edna Manley, OM
Jamaican Artist Extraordinaire

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Edna Manley was an Jamaican artist and social activist. Born in 1900, Her father, Harvey Swithenbank, was an English and her mother a Jamaican.

She studied sculpture in London at the Regent Street Polytechnic, the Royal Academy Schools and St. Martin's School of Art. She married her cousin Norman Manley and moved to Jamaica in 1922.


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Two children, both sons, were born to that marriage, Michael who was to become a union activist and eventually prime minister, and Douglas, a sociologist and minister in his brother's government.

Her work here in the 1920s and early 1930s strongly reflected the current Vorticist and Neo-classical trends in British sculpture. The influence of Frank Dobson and Jacob Epstein is particularly marked.

Her subject-matter, however, revealed a strong identification with Jamaica and our people.

edna manley jamaican artist

When her husband became leader of the People's National Party, in the wake of the worker uprising of 1938, she became a public figure both as an artist committed to producing works centred on Jamaica (most notably the figure 'Negro Aroused') and as a promoter of Jamaican literary culture through the journal Focus, which she edited in the 1940s and 1950s.

Active for much of her life as an artist, she also taught at the Jamaica School of Art (now a component of the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts). She died in 1987.

Some of her popular works include:

  • Whisper
  • Into The Mist
  • Before Thought
  • Moon
  • Into The Sun
  • Growth
  • The Ancestor
  • The Mother
  • Negro Aroused
  • Diggers
  • Man and Woman
  • Bead Sellers
  • The Trees are Joyful
  • Rainbow Serpent
  • Rising Sun
  • Prophet
  • Ghetto Mother

She has received numerous awards including, the Gold Musgrave Medal of the Institute of Jamaica (1943), The Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of the West Indies (1977) and the Order of Merit (Jamaica, 1980) 

For an entire biography on Ms Manley, take a look at this page
[sources: www.wikipedia.com & www.answers.com]

Get Limited Edition: Edna Manley, The Seventies:
A survey of the artist's work of the past decade : National Gallery of Jamaica, Devon House, April 14th-June 30th, 1980

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