Numerous events and activities occur in October each year in celebration of Black History Month across the United Kingdom. But with Jamaica doing so well at the Olympic Games this summer, however, competition has been heating up to see just who can best honour Black History Month and suitably mark Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary of Independence at the same time. Colorful Times caught up with award-winning British designer Jon Daniel to uncover the brains behind a dynamic and engaging month long exhibition of 50 fabulous Jamaican stamps from that country’s philatelic history.
Like many of my generation, I did a little stamp collecting as a young child of about 7 or 8 years of age. But this is not really what got me interested in stamps. It didn’t happen until much later when I was more conscious and politically aware. The collection was borne out of a campaign I initiated in the early 1990s. Inspired by the lyrics of Public Enemy’s ‘Fight The Power’ (“cause I’m Black and I’m proud, I’m ready and hyped plus I’m amped… Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps.”), I realised that no Black historical and cultural figures had been represented on British stamps.
To address this, I created a unique series of stamp designs highlighting ‘Black Contribution to Britain’. Unfortunately, although I campaigned for many years, garnering support from several MPs, The Prince of Wales, English Heritage, and The Commission for Racial Equality amongst many others, my stamp designs were never to see the light of day.
No brainer. The stamps. With the almost complete digitisation of almost any music track you could wish to own, you can easily rebuild any music collection, unless you’re a vinyl collector). The stamps are at their most beautiful in the flesh, so therefore not so easily replaced.
Other than as part of my household contents insurance they are not specially insured.
This is the second year running for ‘POST-COLONIAL’, but the initial idea was born out of the fact that I had made an approach to internationally renowned visual communications magazine, Creative Review to publish a selection of my stamps in their exclusive subscriber only booklet, ‘Monograph’. I thought it would be good to support this with an exhibition, but had no money to make it happen. So I devised a plan and pitched the idea to Stanley Gibbons who thankfully were very receptive.
The team at Stanley Gibbons are extremely talented and dedicated. Thanks to Louise Reynolds for her passion and drive to make it happen. Dr. Philip Kinns for the inspiration and intellect he brings to the curation process. And Wayne Elliot and the in-store team for their support of the installation and day to day management of the exhibition.
Absolutely. They are the acknowledged world leading authority on stamps. So if you’re going to start somewhere, start at the top.
Stamps are pretty ubiquitous. They are probably the original and greatest form of ‘intimate’ mass communication. So the show is for all sections of society, to engage in something different. To take time to appreciate the craft, ingenuity and aesthetic quality of design and communication delivered in such a small canvas. And to be enlightened by a cultural experience of which you may not have had a prior appreciation or awareness.
Yes there are lessons to be learnt, especially regarding the quality and craft of philately. But none of these I believe are specific to the black diasporal context. However, there is a feeling amongst certain collectors that there is a correlation between ‘independence’ and the quality of a nation’s stamps; believing there to be is a decline in their design quality post a nation’s independence.
That may be the case, as perhaps some nation’s lacked resources and expertise to produce stamps in the same manner. But as a modernist in my design ethos and appreciation, there are many modern stamps in my collection which are simply beautiful and stand up to their vintage counterparts in every aspect.
I believe the title for ‘most valuable’ is between the ‘6d Abolition of Slavery’ (1921) of which there are thought to be only a handful in existence, with 4 I believe in The Queen’s collection.
And the ‘1 shilling inverted frame error’ (1920) of which there are around 19 in existence. Jamaican businessman, Joseph M. Mahfood sold a used one for $22,000 in 2011.
Yes, but far more importantly, an appreciation of the value and contribution of Jamaican people, its history and its culture.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure as I’m not your typical philatelist and don’t follow the market as such. However, there is a sense that the appreciation of stamps is enjoying resurgence. And certainly over the past few years there have been several press articles commenting on how well stamps perform as an investment product, in fact in certain cases even outperforming gold as an investment that holds its value well.
This is the second year for ‘POST-COLONIAL’ so that in itself is a testament that the model has legs. I already have decided what next year’s exhibition theme will be and as long as Stanley Gibbons continues to play host and provide support, watch this space!
This landmark exhibition takes place at Stanley Gibbons flagship store at 399 Strand, London WC2R 0LX from Monday 1st – Wednesday 31st October 2012, and is also be available to view online at stanleygibbons.com and via a dedicated Facebook page.
Established in 1856 The Stanley Gibbons Group plc comprises of their stamp dealing arm, Stanley Gibbons Ltd, which has held the Royal Warrant continuously since 1914; Stanley Gibbons Publications: A range of world renowned catalogues and trade and consumer magazines dedicated to the hobby; Stanley Gibbons Investment: The world’s only recognised provider of alternative investment products based on rare stamps and autographs and publisher of the SG price indices available on Bloomberg Professional and Fraser’s Autographs The Group’s memorabilia and collectibles arm.
Classically trained as a graphic designer, Jon has worked primarily as an art director for many of London’s leading advertising agencies, in a career spanning over twenty-five years. He has co-founded and served as Executive Creative Director with two creative companies. And now, alongside his commercial work, Jon has also begun to forge a reputation in the cultural arena; Curating the successful “POST-COLONIAL: Stamps from the African Diaspora” exhibition with global stamp dealer, Stanley Gibbons. And more recently with a large outdoor display of his “Jamaicons” exhibition; as part of the Brixton Splash 2012 street festival and 50th anniversary of Jamaican Independence celebrations.
JA50 is the ‘brandchild’ of internationally renowned visual art and communications exponents, Kofi Allen and Jon Daniel. Founded to cultivate ideas that celebrate the global phenomenon of Jamaica’s cultural impact across the globe; initiatives this year include involvement in several arts exhibitions in the UK and Caribbean; the establishment of an online retail site, JA50 Supastore and the development of an interactive facebook environment. More exciting projects are planned for this year and beyond.
Peter Mason creates his work by recycling used postage stamps into pixellated images. Each stamp represents a pixel. By choosing the every day objects of postage stamps and placing them so that their usual significance becomes obscure enables the audience to see ‘Art’ with new eyes. He is best known for his portraits but he also creates a variety of other images from stamps.