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Tuesday, 12 January 2016
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY - AFRO-JAMAICAN " BERETTE MACAULAY " A VERY BEAUTIFUL LADY, WITH BRAINS AND TALENTS - HER PASSION FOR PHOTOGRAPHY, PAINTING, ACTING AND JAMAICAN FOOD - GOES INTO THE " HALL OF BLACK GENIUS "
BEAUTY, brains and talent are just few of the many attributes of Berette Macaulay. Her warm smile and twinkling eyes bring life to the room as she speaks about her achievements and passion for photography, painting, dancing, acting, drama and Jamaican food.
And while she speaks fondly of growing up and travelling, she confesses she doesn't feel a sense of belonging anywhere.
"I spent a lot of time confused," she says in the simplest of ways. "My biggest identity issue -- which shows up in my art -- is that I am not at home anywhere."
Born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Africa, Macaulay moved with her family to Jamaica at two months old on invitation from the government. Her mother Margarette, attorney, and father, the late Berthan Macaulay QC, moved, as while her father was attorney general there, he was detained as a political prisoner and a year after his release it was deemed safer for him and his family to leave Sierra Leone.
Macaulay grew up in an African household with a strong British influence, propelled by her mother and father. And so it was that she was exposed to all three cultures, especially since she also spent part of her childhood in the United Kingdom.
"As a child, I remember trying to balance three cultures -- African, British and Jamaican," she recalls. But her cultural exposure did not end there. In 1996, she moved to United States where she spent 14 years and got drawn in what she describes as a culture that made one "hard and impolite".
"Because of that it helped me to get in touch with my Jamaican roots. When I was asked where I was from I said Jamaica. But I am a resident in New York, that is where I pay my bills. Once there was just nowhere to me like New York. But that is no longer where my heart is. It is just too loud!" she laughs. "My heart is in Jamaica. Now I am getting to abstract more quietly," she says in reference to the type of art she now pursues.
But while she prefers to "leave one guessing my age", she explains that she went to the United States when she was quite young as an aspiring model. However, after a one-year stint, she enrolled in the Marymount Manhattan College where she earned her Theatre Arts degree.
During her studies, she ended every semester with the honour of being placed on the dean's list and was included on the Who's Who US National list of exceptional scholastic achievers from junior colleges.
Outside of her studies, she worked as a school librarian, managed the theatre box office, was an active member of student government, and performed in plays each semester.
But her achievements did not stop there. She was elected by her tutors to the international honour society, Phi Theta Kappa, and was later awarded by both the Alpha Chi, and Curian honour societies, and graduated magna cum laude from Marymount Manhattan.
While pursuing her Theatre Arts degree, Macaulay also pursued studies in psychology and photography -- the latter becoming her main pursuit.
Macaulay then started working as a visual and performing artist, having performed in and created main stage works with notable choreographers such as Nina Buisson and Devin Pullins in New York. Some of these theatre stages were the Juilliard Theatre, Di Capo Opera House, Aaron Davis Concert Hall, The Gate House, Peter Norton Symphony Space, Judson, and The Duke on 42nd Street.
She is featured in the permanently installed exhibit called PERFORM -- The History of Theater in New York, at the Museum of the City of New York on 5th Avenue.
While working as a theatre performer in New York, she took on formal vocal training at the New York Conservatory of Music and Dance Studies at Peridance International Dance Studios. There she worked under the instruction of well-known and talented choreographers.
"Even as a child I loved to dance. I was infected with dance," she laughs. "I have been dancing since I was four. That is how I express myself. I'll dance to any kind of music!"
Macaulay had the honour of sharing the stage with some of the most accomplished dancers who hailed from companies like Donald Byrd, Alvin Ailey, Ron Brown and the Metropolitan Opera!
But her main passion is photography.
"I did a lot of portraits. Some crazy portraits!" she laughs again. "But right now I am going through a shift. I have started painting over my photography. It's fairly new, so now I only have a few commissions."
The multi-talented artist recently completed a month-long showing of her series 'CrowDeD Duo' in Germany, which she notes was well received.
"Now I am moving away from the loud portrait to a lot of abstracts. I am now interested in beauty that moves," she says.
In 2005, Macaulay founded SeBiArt: Photographic Evolution, a company with the mission of bringing together a coalition of visual and performing artists to create cathartic multi-disciplinary/multimedia arts projects.
As a photographer, she has also pursued the commercial and fashion avenues, photographing well-known persons both locally and internationally.
Her main challenge now is finding compatible and reliable collaborators and acquiring adequate funding to produce projects -- "especially in a day and age where there is less and less importance placed on developing the arts," she says.
Macaulay has experienced these challenges first-hand in her own work and as a guest teacher for performing and visual arts and photography in New York City public schools for Art for Progress, Safe Space, Symphony Space, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Recently, she began assisting in organising peace art projects with the internationally respected children's arts organisation, CITYarts, headquartered in New York. She successfully got schools in Ghana and Sierra Leone to participate in their 'Pieces for Peace' project, which she is passionately trying to get Jamaica to do.
"There is just so much talent here!" she says bright eyed. "The imaginations are wild! I would love to find a way to get artists coming together on painting on a peace wall. That would be so cool!"
Still her talent does not stop there. Macaulay, who played "Kafi" in Royal Palm Estate some years ago, was a Pulse model, Miss Jamaica top ten contestant and Spartan Elite model in the 90s, and was awarded third placed for Jamaica in the international beauty contest, Miss Ambar Mudial, held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.