The theatre of conviction: a tent and within its geometrical boundaries a crowd of people, none of them spilling out into the open, bound not by walls but by conviction.
The best architecture in Jamaica is architecture where the wall does not define the limits of a place but the beaten ground, or the shading device.
This explains why many houses of Jamaicans are the way they are. The poor and the content have tiny houses. They make do. They dwell outside. The house is no more than a treasure box, a core to represent their existence, to hold moveable poperty and dreams and to serve as the centre of their world. Brightly coloured on the outside and, perhaps distinguished by gingerbread, the house is a landmark, a sign of property, a sign of identity.
Its walls are made of corrugated iron, scraps of wood, the occasional concrete block, all of it easily penetrated by the ricochetting violence. A girl was shot in her sleep. Her head lay on a cussion with a cheap pillowcase decorated with large fleshy red roses. She was shot through the head. You could hardly distinguish the blood from the pillow-cover’s print. The bullet had not really been intended for her. She was after all asleep. The bullet strayed from a policeman’s gun and was meant to stop a young man, a thief, a dealer, a murderer or an awfull trinity in one.
Some houses have become books on the outside as well a sacred ground on the inside, with altars covered with signs in hommage to meaning. On the outside they become sermons, billboards of affiliation, proclaiming the magic that consecrates ownership, procaliming Anger and conviction. Sometimes they echoe the fragments of pride, or political enslavement, or the icons of an America of which Goofy and Mickey Mouse are its ambassadors.
So many of the small houses are so essentially houselike, the consequence of an absolute reductionism. They say “house” in the most poetically succinct way: door, flanked by two windows, roof and wall.
But the structure is not the whole home. The House in Jamaica, is as the hearth in northern countries, only a focus of the domestic rituals.
The beaten earth around the house, with its deep red colour, those are the paths that make home into its peculiar configuration of habits and responses.
Anger expressed on houses tends to be roughly painted in a rhetorical gesture. Reconciliation, when expressed on walls, has a more formalised and carefully executed look.