2017-2018 Annual Report

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Bearing Witness: Four Days in West Kingston

Visitors hear stories from members of the Tivoli Gardens community.

Penn Team Members

Co-curator: Deborah Thomas, Ph.D., R. Jean Brownlee Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania
Leniqueca Welcome, Ph.D. student
David Chavannes, Ph.D. student

Other Team Members

Co-curator: Deanne M. Bell, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of East London
Co-curator: Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn, Percussionist
Osei Alleyne, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Cultural Anthropology, University of the Arts

logo for Bearing Witness Four Days in West Kingston

This exhibition drawn from the ethnography project Tivoli Stories features first-hand accounts of the events of May 24, 2010, in Tivoli Gardens, Jamaica, when at least 75 civilians were killed.

On May 24, 2010, at least 75 Jamaican civilians were killed when police and military forces entered the West Kingston community in an attempt to apprehend Christopher “Dudus” Coke, a gang leader and community leader. In 2012, Dr. Deborah Thomas, Dr. Deanne M. Bell, and Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn started the ethnography project Tivoli Stories to provide a platform for community members to narrate their experiences of that day, and to name and memorialize lost loved ones.

Working with these community members, they recorded around 30 oral histories, collected drone footage and archival film and stills, and took photographs and video of interviewees and the community. The material has formed the basis for the experimental documentary Four Days in May: Kingston 2010, Dr. Thomas’s book Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation: Sovereignty, Witnessing, Repair, and the Museum exhibition Bearing Witness: Four Days in West Kingston.

group of people singing, playing drums, and dancing in front of a timeline of the Tivoli incursion wall of portraits at the exhibit table set with flowers, fruit, and candles in the middle of an exhibit women watching the exhibit media on benches group of people walking

At the Museum, Dr. Thomas led a free six-part open reading group based on the exhibition. These meetings explored the history and culture of Jamaica through in-depth discussions ranging across histories, novels, poetry, and film, offering participants a deep engagement with the exhibition and ethnography project.

Bearing Witness opened at the Penn Museum in November 2017 and will be on view until December 2019. Read more about the project from Dr. Thomas in Expedition magazine.

entrance to the Bearing Witness Four Days in West Kingston exhibit

Sponsors

Penn Humanities Forum, Digital Humanities Forum, Vitale Digital Media Lab, Provost’s Interdisciplinary Arts Fellowship, School of Arts and Sciences, Annenberg School for Communication, Penn Design, Antioch Faculty Fund, Inc.