Columns

Medals and memories

Barbara
Gloudon

Friday, October 12, 2018

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On Wednesday, October 10, at the Institute of Jamaica, on East Street, Kingston, presented the 2018 Musgrave Medals — the oldest award in the western hemisphere — to worthy persons in the field of literature, science and arts.

Among the recipients of the awards, gold medals were presented to Peter Ashbourne in the field of arts (music), Professor Mervyn Morris in the field of literature, and Professor Basil Burke in the field of science.

Silver medals were awarded to Dr Jean “Binta” Breeze for literature, Kingston College Chapel Choir for the arts, and Professor Henry Lowe was awarded for his work in the field of science. The bronze medals were conferred on Professor Oswald Harding in the arts, Dr Leo Douglas in science, and Roland Watson-Grant for literature. The Youth Musgrave Medal was presented to Arthur Williams III (entrepreneurship and public policy). The distinguished lady and gentlemen have been recognised for the work they have done in enriching our country.

On Monday, October 15, Heroes Day, the Government will present other deserving Jamaicans with national awards and honours. A range of individuals will be recognised for contributions in the arts, sports, business, public service, and other areas including acts of gallantry. We need more of this good stuff in a time when so much seems to be bringing us down. Congratulations to those who have made us proud.

Creative mother-daughter duo

In last Sunday's edition of this publication, one of the most interesting relationships, that of mother and daughter, between Ivy and Sheryl Lee Ralph, was shared with our readers and members of the Jamaican family.

The wider public may be more familiar with the noted American actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, who rose to fame when she starred on Broadway in the 1981 musical Dream Girls. Jamaicans at home and abroad were filled with pride when she was nominated for a Tony Award — one of the highest levels of excellence in American theatre. Sheryl Lee Ralph won many admirers for her work on stage and in the movies as well as a recording artiste.

While Sheryl Lee was gaining the name of star performer she had another “special gift” in the form of the creative skills of her mother, a noted fashion designer, whom Sheryl referred to as the “original diva”.

Ivy Ralph was a graduate of the New York Fashion Institute and she made her name in the fashion industry with her creation of the noted kareeba suit, which was a major fashion statement of the 1970s.

The elder Ralph's creation of the open-neck shirt and matching pants, featuring interesting buttons or contrasting stitching, was popularised by the former Prime Minister Michael Manley and number of other political leaders, including Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, who were moving away from the Eurocentric style of “jacket and tie”, seeking to find formal and casual wear that was more suited to a tropical climate.

In Sunday's paper, Sheryl Lee Ralph spoke proudly of her mother's achievements as they celebrated her 90th year. Sadly, time was moving swiftly on. Upon her passing at the Nuttall Hospital, long-time friend, former prime minister and “kareeba-wearer” P J Patterson expressed his view that, “Ivy Ralph was a creative pioneer who set trends in the field of design.”

In time, no doubt, we will hear more reflections on the life of the designer Ivy Ralph. Condolence to Sheryl Lee, her siblings, other family members, and friends who will remember the extraordinary talent of “Miss Ivy Ralph”, a woman of talent and imagination. A member of the Anglican Church of St Margaret's, Old Hope Road, she kept her faith to the end. Rest in peace, Miss Ivy.

Condolence to Cassetta Belinfanti

A few days ago, husband of horticulturalist Cassetta Belinfanti passed away after a brief illness. For many years Cassetta and Ralph dedicated their time and efforts to beautifying a community park in the Portmore area.

Cassetta is well known for her great love of “the earth” and she continues to “till the soil”. Even in the face of sadness, she continues to brighten her community. Condolences to her and her friends and family for the loss of their beloved one.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or

gloudonb@gmail.com.

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