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Art Gallery of St. Albert offers glimpses of Jamaica's culture

Visual artist Raneece Buddan uses art to connect with her culture and heritage

The first thing that pops out at Art Gallery of St. Albert’s current main exhibition is the variety of artistic forms Raneece Buddan presents. Threading Through Time blends paintings, mixed media wall pieces, textiles, clay vassals and wood sculptures. 

The Edmonton-based Jamaican visual artist is an ongoing odyssey of self-discovery. Through her art, Buddan is attempting to learn more about her cultural identity as a Jamaican while reconnecting with her Afro and Indo-Caribbean ancestry. 

She creates art that is a hybrid style of her cultural heritage and DNA. For instance, her clay pots are modelled after the Ashante tribe in Ghana, and her textiles are inspired by block printing motifs and woven patterns from Nigeria, Ghana and India. 

“For her, it’s about reconnection. So much of her culture was lost due to slavery and indentured service. A lot of people in Jamaica practice crafts, but the foundation was lost. For Raneece, it’s about finding the threads that connect her past,” said Emily Baker, art gallery curator. 

Buddan immigrated to Canada in 2015. Five years later, she completed a BFA in Art and Design at the University of Alberta. Currently she is the communications manager at Latitude 53 and has enjoyed 16 gallery exhibitions across the province since her graduating year. 

“I started thinking about the concept in 2019 and onwards. I try to visually translate what I think,” said Buddan. “I’m still learning about my heritage. It’s a journey. I don’t feel I need to know everything now. It’s about reconnecting at my own pace.” 

While exploring her past, Buddan has researched and studied many styles of craftsmanship. 

“I don’t mimic what I see. What I see, I translate for myself. The pieces I create are new and authentic. My work has a distinct view.” 

The most eye-catching piece of art is the 2019 Black Indian, a sculptural self-portrait created with oil paints and sequins on wood. It is a powerful image of a proud woman comfortable in her own skin. 

The common denominator throughout the differing types of art is bold, bright colours mirroring Jamaica’s cultural diversity. 

“It’s a reflection of Jamaica’s people on the street selling woodwork, paintings, sculptures and printmaking. I was so happy to try everything out at the university. Here they have a big studio and it allowed me to explore.” 

Baker sums up the exhibit saying, “Everybody in Canada is curious about their past. It’s a Canadian pastime. This exhibit is specific to Raneece’s past and her legacy, but it’s a drive that is universal.” 

Buddan closes by saying, “Come with an open mind about what Caribbean culture and people look like, and how culture changes over generations, and how each perspective looks different." 

The gallery hosts an opening reception on Thursday, March 21 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. An in-person tour is on Wednesday, March 27 at noon followed by a virtual tour on Wednesday, April 3 on Facebook Live. 

Buddan is also leading a block printing workshop on Saturday, April 6 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Ages 10 and up are welcome. Preregister at 780-460-4310.  

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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