Since the 16th century, enslaved Africans and their descendants in Jamaica, and indeed, the New World, have expressed themselves and their spirituality and desire for redemption through the arts. Reggae continues this expressive tradition of rejecting oppression and validating Afro-Jamaican identity and the demand for equal rights.
Equal Rights: Reggae and Social Change, riffs and rips off reggae artist and freedom advocate Peter Tosh's 1977 album Equal Rights. Tosh, a Rastafarian, described himself as “a soldier in Jah's (God's) army” and considered his music and lyrics weapons in the battle against spiritual and physical wickedness “in high and low places”.
Visual art and music, informed by plantation spiritualism, the quest for freedom and later Rastafarian ideology, have sustained a cultural link to the rejection of the slave system even as it has been transformed and manifested into a modern and global plantocracy. They have given voice, motivated actions of resistance and provided strength for survival among a former enslaved and then colonized population, overwhelmingly of African descent.
People speak for themselves, through the music, through all its forms and permutations. Cover art speaks visually, giving sight to the cultural information in the music – the aural text that reggae album cover designer Neville Garrick calls “colouring the sound”. Equal Rights: Reggae and Social Change, displays album covers and posters that incorporate influences shared by Jamaican visual artists since the advent of international modernism and the concurrent recognition of Intuitive works.