Jamaal Bruce, more popularly known as “Freakout”, has been polishing his craft of dance for the past six years. He has made appearances on some of the biggest stages in Saint Lucia including Soca Monarch, the Jazz & Arts Festival, Teddyson John’s U4RIA and the “Allez” music video. Freakout has become a stage personality, called upon to help bring life and character to many events. His performances are not limited to dancing; he makes a conscious effort to choose the right music and paints his body with his signature symbols. On social media accounts Freakout uses his photography skills to create an atmosphere and to send profound messages. His work of art has a purpose, no matter which form he chooses.
But as of Friday last week, Jamaal Bruce took up a whole new project. On Thursday, April 13 he woke up determined to address the pressing issue of the under-appreciation of artists and creative professionals in Saint Lucia. Jamaal immediately got to work and consulted other artists. He created graphic art for as many creative expressions as he could think of including dance, writing, baking, modelling, make-up artistry and photography and set them against an orange backdrop. “I chose orange because I really felt like it was the right colour, it’s my spirit colour,” he commented. Every image is accompanied by the phrase “Exposure Is Not Currency” and posted with the hashtag #EINC. By Friday morning Jamaal had distributed these images to every known artist and creative professional, and it took Saint Lucia’s social media platforms by storm.
“You can’t have these young people striving and pushing their bodies for just compliments and their names (sometimes spelt incorrectly) at the bottom of the broadcast. Why should you make us go through all this just for a shout out?” The plight for many artists in Saint Lucia is that at very short notice corporate companies or government request performances or artwork for their events. When it is time to be paid, artists find themselves waiting for weeks or months for less than $200 and the guarantee of “exposure”. But according to Jamaal and many artists who are participating in sharing the message, “exposure” does not pay the bills or compensate for the hours of hard work put into one performance or presentation. “I remember going to an event that I had to perform at, sweating backstage, to be told that the coordinators ask that they don’t feed us or give refreshments. By ‘us’ I mean ‘The Dancers’. I think that’s when the fire truly started for me,” he reminisced.
To Jamaal’s pleasure the movement he started exploded in twenty-four hours and some of the well-known artists who have made it to the professional arena are helping him spread the word including Sedale, Wavemaker Photography and Davina Lee. “This happens throughout the world, yes, but in the Caribbean being an artist is being a hobbyist and if there’s one thing that aggravates me it’s the mindset that being an artist is equivalent to being unemployed. We’re obviously not perfect but I don’t think we’re unfathomable to the point where we don’t deserve a voice.”