It has taken me a long time to acknowledge the death of Albert Huie at the end of January this year – indeed, I found out about it long after it happened, and almost by accident. Although they are both Jamaican cultural icons, it seems this passing was acknowledged widely but more quietly than that of Rex Nettleford. An indication of the different natures of each, I suppose. The differences are certainly not because Huie’s influence and his talent were and are any less important – he was one of those who blazed the way for the Jamaican artists who came after him, one of those on whose shoulders we stand.
Not that I knew that in the beginning. Albert Huie’s work was, literally, a part of my childhood. Paintings he had created hung in my parents’ house, in my grandparents and my relatives homes. When I graduated from university, my parents wanted to mark my success with a gift. Without knowing anything more than that I loved it I asked for a small painting of his, a painting of the road going up Stoney Hill. That painting has carried a little part of my heritage with me, for me, as I moved from home to home. Now creates its magic in the home of one of my children, because it has been a part of their childhoods too. All this time it has been a little bit of the essence of Jamaica, a reminder for us who are far away.
Now I think of Huie, the painter and the man. There are some painters who manage to capture the spirit of what they paint; Huie was one of those, and for most of his life the spirit he captured was that of Jamaica and her people. It was that ability to capture the spirit of places and people that made him famous in Jamaica and brought him recognition well beyond the borders of the country he was born in. In each painting that he created there was something of what he observed, and something of himself.
Albert Huie, thank you for all that you created, and for the spirit you infused your work with. That spirit will continue to touch those who are lucky enough to know your work.
For those who would like to know a little bit more about Albert Huie:
Remembering Albert Huie, from the National Gallery of Jamaica Blog
Devoted to Albert Huie, Under Construction, but with images and information: the Huie Studios Website.
A look at one of his pictures: Picture of woman in the sun