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Yoruba/Kola Nut Offering Bowl

Kola nuts are one of the most frequently used and culturally important substances in   African culture. It is prominently used to welcome visitors to social gatherings.

Kola Nuts are regarded as having spiritual power and they function as facilitators of communication between men and their gods.

Kola nut bowls are carved from wood and are embellished with intricate details depicting human figures and are said to depict the wealth and dignity of their owners.

Kola Nuts are known as ‘bizzy’ in Jamaica and are said to be used to cure or to purify the body from toxins.

The Makonde is an ethnic group in Southeast Tanzania and Northern Mozambique.   Makonde carvings are usually made from a single piece of wood from the African Blackwood or Mpingo Tree.

    A  Makonde Sculpture

Did you know that the National Library of Jamaica is built on the foundation once known as Blundell Hall, former home of the renowned Mary Seacole?

Mary Seacole


Mary Seacole was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1805, to a Scottish soldier and a Jamaican mother. Her mother was a practitioner of traditional Jamaican medicine and the proprietor of Blundell Hall, a boardinghouse where she cared for invalid soldiers and their wives. Mary learned about medicine from her mother and soon acquired an enviable reputation as a ‘skilful nurse and doctress’. Her reputation has its roots in the Crimean War of the 1850s where she served on the front lines helping suffering soldiers.

Until recent years, her contribution was not widely known. In subsequent years however, Seacole became known as one of the Greatest Black Briton. As her story continues to be heralded, her image has become one of the most requested from the National Library of Jamaica’s (NLJ) Photograph Collection. Her name is also entrenched at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus where a female hall is named in her honour.

National Library of Jamaica (NLJ)

The National Library of Jamaica was established in 1979 under the Institute of Jamaica Act of 1978 with the collection of the West India Reference Library (WIRL) as its nucleus. Founded in 1894, the West India Reference Library (WIRL) was a section of the Public Library of the Institute of Jamaica, which was the first of its kind in Jamaica. Frank Cundall who acted as the Secretary/Librarian of the Institute 1891 – 1937 was responsible for the establishment of the West India Library.

Jamaican Postal Service

During the reign of King Charles II, the Governor of Jamaica was instructed to make arrangements for the establishment of a post office in Jamaica. This was because of complaints from early settlers concerning the slow delivery of mail. As a result in October 31, 1671, Jamaica became the first British colony to have established a Post Office. The post office was established in the then capital, St. Jago De La Vega, or Spanish Town as it is now known.

In 1776, the main Post Office was moved from Spanish Town to Harbour Street in Kingston. The Jamaican postal service operated as a sub branch of the British Post Office until 1860, when it achieved full managerial and operational autonomy. In addition, distinctive Jamaican postage stamps were introduced for the first time in 1860, to replace British stamps which were in circulation until then.

Following the 1907 earthquake, the main post office was again moved, this time to the General Post Office on King Street in downtown Kingston. However, these premises soon proved inadequate given increased mail flows and plans were drawn up to construct a new head office building including an automated central sorting office. Work on this new building started in the mid 1970’s and was completed and the sorting facility fully commissioned in 1980.

The National Flag

When T.E. Sealy asked Manley what was his idea of a National Flag he replied, “Our flag must represent all our races”. The committee started with 23 colours and eventually selected three. Black represented Jamaica’s solidarity with the great independent African states such as Ghana and Ethiopia, which both had the colour black in their flags. Yellow was put in for brightness. However, there was a problem in choosing a third colour. Sealy, in his personal account said that Will Isaacs suggested green as a better colour and so our flag became two gold narrow horizontal stripes with black and green in between. The flag was then sent to the College of Heralds in London. The design was cleared and accepted. However, Tanganyika cleared a similar flag, and in order to solve the problem of identical flags, Florizel Glasspole suggested that we make a gold cross instead. Upon the agreement of the College of Heralds in London, our flag was born.

Urn With Panels

Commissioned by Sir Alexander Bustamante in 1952, the Independence Urn became one of eight pieces created by Peter Cave and Gary Sharpe. The urn presented Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret in 1962. This celebratory piece chronicles various important events in the history of Jamaica. The design starts with the arrival of Columbus in 1494. It also includes the arrival of the British in 1655, the Port Royal Earthquake in 1692, Emancipation 1838 and the granting of independence in 1962.

Urn with Panels is also a featured artefact in our current exhibition Jamaica 50:Constructing a Nation.



H.I.M Haile Selassie I – Visit to Jamaica

Did you know that H.I.M on his official visit to Jamaica in April 1966 paved the way for the popular acceptance of Rastafari as a legitimate cultural expression and philosophical modality?   

 H.I.M (His Imperial Majesty)

Until His visit, due largely to the embassy of Rastafari leaders,  Rastafari had been virtually ostracized from mainstream society and faced harsh discrimination from the constabulary authorities. The overwhelming show of welcome of H.I.M. at the popular level, along with his official reception and island-wide tour, vindicated and gave stature to this grass-roots liberation movement, which as of that time began to draw interest and acceptance across class lines.

Please visit our upcoming exhibition Rastafari to be open July 21, 2013.

The Fire key

The Fire key is one of our featured objects in our Rastafari exhibition. It is one of the most significant and essential piece to the Rastafari Nyahbinghi ceremony. The fire key is usually created using stones with a wood fire on top and is lighted with the reciting of seven Psalms. The lighting of the fire sanctifies the occasion of  the Nyahbinghi ceremony and is said to be a consuming fire for all evildoers.

Did you know that the Sarangi (an Indian musical instrument) can imitate the human voice? Just another fun fact about the contributions made by the Indians to  the Jamaican culture.


The netsuke was a small toggle with a cord used by the Japanese to hang small articles such as money pouches, tobacco pouches,and seal or medicine cases (inro) from their sash or belt (obi). Traditional Japanese garment (Kimono) had no pocket, therefore, the netsuke would prevent the hanging object, (collectively called sagemono) from falling to the ground.

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