Inspired by a meeting nearly four decades ago with former Sierra Leone ambassador to Washington, John Akar, who embraced humanity, local artist Thelma Carey-Thompson has created a painting titled “Humanity” in his memory.
A former Sierra Leone Museum art curator and composer of the country’s national anthem, Akar suffered a fatal heart attack in Jamaica in 1975 where he had been a resident for two years.
Carey-Thompson met Akar when she returned to Jamaica – the land of her birth – in 1972.
“Ralph Campbell (a leading Jamaican artist who died in 1985) invited me to a show that John opened and that was where I got the opportunity to meet him,” said Carey-Thompson. “I did some paintings for the show which I sold out at the highly successful event.”
Motivated by the meeting and a speech Akar delivered to Mary’s College of California graduating class in 1972 in which he said “God in inscrutable wisdom has taken the Whites of Europe, the Blacks of Africa, the Brown of the Middle East, the Yellow of Asia and the Red of the American Indians to weave into a beautiful and sacred tapestry called humanity”, Carey-Thompson produced the piece that represents a kaleidoscope of nations.
“Some of the faces are real people, dead and alive, who I have interactions with over the years,” she said.
They include Akar, Campbell, Jamaican painter Albert Huie, Prime Minister Michael Manley and her husband, Dr. Maurice Thompson, an orthopaedic surgeon who died in 1967.
“In a world where there is still a lot of discrimination which I have also faced, I thought this would be an opportune time to produce this painting,” said the octogenarian. “I could write a book about the racism I have had to endure.”
A graduate of St. Andrew High School for Girls in Jamaica, Carey-Thompson taught art at Merl Grove and Meadowbrook High Schools and Jamaica and Kingston colleges and honed her artistic skills at the Edward Annison Studio in London, Albert Pels School of Art in New York and the Lillie Hand Décor Studios in Long Island, before returning to Jamaica in 1972.
Out of a studio she set up in Havendale, Carey-Thompson created designs for kitchens and bathrooms and greeting cards that were donated to charitable organizations in Jamaica and North America.
Since migrating to Canada 39 years ago, her paintings have been exhibited at galleries across Canada, the United States and the Caribbean.
Carey-Thompson has also illustrated and written a children’s book – I Saw Santa – to support the Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education in Canada.
Carey-Thompson can be reached at 416-261-5035.