Q&A with Barabara Blake Hannah 2022

Barbara Blake Hannah, OD

Barbara Blake Hannah is a Jamaican writer, journalist, filmmaker, and cultural consultant in the Jamaican government. She emigrated to London in the 1960s and worked as a PR executive for the Jamaica Tourist Board. In 1968 she became the first black TV journalist in the UK working for the BBC. In 1972 Blake Hannah returned to Jamaica as a PR Officer for the Jamaican film The Harder they Come and subsequently joined the Rastafarian religion, and articulate campaigner for acceptance of the religion. In 1984 she was appointed an Independent Opposition Senator, the first Rastafari to sit in the Jamaican Parliament. Barbara Blake Hannah’s book” Growing Out”, was recently published with a new introduction by Penguin Books UK.

Jenny Mein is in conversation with Barbara Blake Hannah May 2022

Question  1
What did you aspire to be when you were a child?

When I was a child I wanted to be a dress designer, because I loved to draw clothes for the dolls in the cardboard cut-out books we used to play with as a child. Then I wanted to be a best-selling novelist like O. Henry and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I used to read a lot and they were my favourite authors.

Question 2
Who has been your greatest influence?

Without a doubt, my greatest influence has been my father, the journalist Evon Blake, who set the example for me as a writer, as someone who earned their living by writing. From I was born I saw my father sitting at his typewriter, writing, writing, writing. He published a monthly magazine SPOTLIGHT that was usually all his own work because he always quarreled with the journalists he hired because they never wrote as well as he expected them to. He was also a very political man, friends with all the leaders of that time, not just Jamaican Government politicians like Bustamante and Manley, but also the Caribbean leaders like Bradshaw, Cheddi Jagan, and Marryshow. I got used to being around people like them from an early age, so I fit in comfortably when I met people like them in later life. My father grew me up to be brave and fearless, making my sister and I swim with him far out from the beach to the deep sea, then swim back to shore by ourselves. We could swim well, so we knew we couldn’t drown, but I had to have the courage to press on with confidence till I reached the beach. I still benefit from that exercise.

Question 3
What has been your most favourite journey?

My favourite journey was going to Hollywood in 1999 with my son Makonnen. I had been to Hollywood twice, years before he was born on visits to stay with my movie star girlfriend Vonetta McGee. But this time was really lovely. Mak was part of a team with two American tech teens who had built a website working online for ThinkQuest, an international student website design competition, and they were flown to Los Angeles for the finals with several other youths and their teachers. As Mak and his two friends were all home-schooled, we mothers got to accompany them as their ‘teachers’ and ThinkQuest had laid on a real superstar visit for us all, first-class hotel, celebrity scientists as speakers, and all sorts of lovely prizes and surprises.

Not only did Mak’s team win an award. The best part was when we all were taken on a tour of the Warner Brothers theme park, driving down Bob Marley Boulevard through amazing sets recreating scenes from some of the famous blockbuster movies. We saw train wrecks, floods, sets of Old England, spaceships, and the African jungle, it was exciting, surprising, and huge fun. Then they gave us dinner in a huge sound stage, where actors dressed up as famous movie characters and chatted and posed with us. Charlie Chaplin, Bob Hope, Judy Garland, and Frank Sinatra were some of them. Marilyn Monroe was quite fascinated by Makonnen and his dreadlocks, posing beside him with a red lipstick pout for the cameras.

On the return journey, as we were boarding the plane and walking through First Class with Mak carrying his huge award, a man smiled and told him Congrats. Turns out the man was one of the most famous and richest American computer game designers, one of Mak’s heroes and idols. Makonnen was speechless that this man knew what the award meant, and had praised him. It really was my most favourite journey, and I have been to Cuba in Fidel’s time, met Saddam Hussein in Iraq, a was a film festival judge behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany, but this was definitely the best.

Question 4
Your earliest London memory?

I remember my first look at London, driving in from landing at Heathrow, and thinking how huge it was, how un-pretty, how there were so many white people and not a single Black face to be seen! It was quite a shock being in a place where instead of the Black and brown faces I was used to, instead everyone was just White. Not a friendly face in sight!

Question 5
What advice would you give to young women who are beginning their careers?

My first and only bit of advice is SAVE, SAVE, SAVE. Save something from your salary every payday. Invest in health insurance, put away something for your Pension, for retirement. Don’t think you’re too young, or you will earn BIG money one day, or your husband will be rich and take care of your money worries. Build a Savings Account and plan to own your own living space. Start with buying a small apartment, and watch it increase in value till you sell it and buy a larger one, perhaps a house of your own. If you marry a man who gives you a home, you will always have your investment. Rent it out and become a landlady. You will soon have children who will grow up needing somewhere to live. Teach them the benefits of Saving, also. I wish my parents had done that. They always forget. They worry more that you should ‘marry well’ or not get pregnant. Forget that! The best marriages of all can fail, husbands die accidentally or suddenly. But real estate always increases in value. Savings always earn interest. SAVE, SAVE, SAVE.

Question 6
How much has your life changed since becoming a Rastafari and campaigning on their behalf?

My life has grown better and happier since I became a Rasta. I never used to understand or believe what and who God was, even though I tried to live a Godly life. It was always difficult to believe that Jesus Christ ‘died for me’ and that there was a God who was hearing and answering my prayers. Becoming Rasta taught me the deep and true meaning of God in my life and how to live according to the principles taught in the Bible. Rastafari enables me to see God through Black spectacles, as Garvey said we should. Rasta taught me to see the Bible story as a Black story set in Africa, which makes it easier to overstand than a story about the same White people who enslaved my African ancestors so brutally. Rasta taught me that coming from African ancestry is a noble source with an interesting and majestic history that I am proud of, especially the history of Ethiopia. Rastafari offers a different way of looking at life and the world.

The oldest church in the world was recently found by archaeologists at Axum in Ethiopia, dating back to the First Century. I am sure it is the Church Mary and Joseph took the child Christ to after they left Jerusalem. The Eurocentric world wants us to forget that Jerusalem is in North Africa, not someplace they call ‘the Middle East’. They want us to think that the Three Wise Men came over from England. Not so. It all took place in Africa. That’s the real story that we were never told. Seeing life as part of the English world made me feel so inferior. I hated to see myself through the eyes of the British Empire only as a slave descendant. But being a Rasta I see myself as part of a history of Kings dating back to Solomon, Queens like Makeda, Empresses like Zaudito and Emperors like Haile Selassie. I am really happy being a Rasta. I am an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Rasta. I don’t campaign, I just speak my truths.

Question 7
Where do you live and what do you love most about it?

I live with my son in a rented townhouse in a big complex ‘uptown’ at Constant Spring. There is enough space for me to have a home office, and for him to have a home studio where he does his personal music work when he is not recording an artist in a studio elsewhere. There’s a pool and tennis courts, but I have never used them. What I love most about the complex is the big wide lawn outside that I look out onto in the mornings, with trees that birds nest in and wake me up with their songs. I can see the sun rising over the mountains in the east, and if I tiptoe on the balcony I can see the sea far off in the distance to the south. I started growing strawberries in pots on the steps down to the lawn and I have reaped a few already! Best of all, the neighbours are quiet, with no dogs barking, no children bawling, and no late-night parties. A little bit of heaven, thank you JAH.

Question 8
Which famous person would you most like to come to dinner?

Angela Davis. The woman who I wished I was in the 1960s, who inspired me to grow out my natural Black hair, who fell in love with George Jackson, who dared to defy the racist American political System, and who is still alive today. I know we would spend a lot of time laughing, maybe finish a bottle or two of chilled white wine.

Question 9
What is your most treasured possession?

My son’s love.

Question 10
What projects are you working on at the moment?

I am completing my biography of the rest of my life, the sequel to GROWING OUT. It’s called GROWING UP – DAWTA OF JAH about my life since returning from England and becoming a Rasta. It’s finished, but it keeps needing updating, as life continues happening, but I think I will stop now and just take a rest from writing. I would love to see JOSEPH – A RASTA REGGAE FABLE, my novel inspired by the life of my friend Bob Marley, made into a feature film. I would love to work on that.

Question 11
What are your hobbies?

Growing strawberries, social media, enjoying being alive!

Question 12
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Love JAH and live!

Question 13
What would you like your epitaph to say?

The Lord JAH has been my Light and my Salvation.

Question 14
Your favourite collection from Jenny Mein Designs botanical bone china collections?

The Ackee Collection is the nicest, but the Poinsettia collection looks spectacular!

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A stroll at Chiswick House.

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Chelsea Life magazine, October 2021


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Nourishment for the Soul

An inspiring stroll in the beautiful and romantic Italian gardens at Chiswick House, a Palladian Villa built and designed by the 3rd Earl of Burlington (1694-1753), Chiswick, West London.

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House & Garden magazine

Discover our brand and much more in the October 2021 issue of House & Garden magazine.

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Judy Ann MacMillan is a Jamaican artist, best known for her finely observed portraits and landscapes of Jamaica. She was trained at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee, Scotland. She has exhibited in Jamaica and the USA and in 2012 exhibited at the Jonathan Clark Fine Art Gallery in Fulham, London. Judy Ann lives in an enchanting 18th century house on a hill in St. Ann, Jamaica with magnificent views to the sea where she runs an artist retreat. She has recently published her autobiography “Born Ya”.

1. How long have you lived at Rockfield?

I bought Rockfield in 1981 and did a great deal of my painting there. It was difficult to do anything else there in the early years as it was pretty remote and without even a telephone for the first fifteen years. But it was ideally suited for staying focussed on painting as there were very few distractions. I was spoiled by that uninterrupted solitude which allowed to build a rhythm that went from day to day. My painting thrived on it.

2. What is the history behind your house?

Rockfield is a very small plantation house on a cattle and pimento property. It was built in the 1700s and some of the foundations go back to that time but it had always been a family home. It started as a modest mountain cabin which was purchased by the Cotter family and added to over the years as their family grew. Nine children were born there. When I asked Miss Dorothy Cotter who had grown up there to give me some of the history of the place I left with a blank sheet of paper as nothing of great moment had happened there. But the weddings and family gatherings have continued during my occupation.

3. What is your favourite room in the house?

I am an early riser so I like the morning room which faces east and is mostly doors and windows on three sides to the garden.

4. Describe the view from your studio?

There is a very small room used for portraits and finishing landscapes that I call the studio. I can see the garden and the barbecues behind the house from there. Beyond the barbecues the pastures stretch back to low hills in the distance. It is possible to paint out of doors year round in Jamaica so the entire house was my studio. Unsheltered, at an elevation of sixteen hundred feet there were panoramic sea views from the front and mountain views from the back. The feeling of being on an island was enhanced by the constant breezes.

5. Were either of your parents creative?

Both parents were very creative. My mother loved the decorative arts and my father adored the entertainment business.

6. If we didn’t know what you did for a living, would it be obvious if we came to your house?

Yes. There is always an unfinished painting on the easel in the studio and a strong scent of oil paint and turpentine in the air.

7. Your favourite trees, plants in your garden?

I love my royal palms, the poinciana trees , the lilies in May, the wild vanda orchids. In the backyard moringa, ackee, and otaheite apple trees that I planted are my favourites.

8. A landscape you love?

The mountains behind Kingston are a favourite subject and of course coastal views and pastoral views in St Ann.

9. Who or what inspires you?

The paintings of the Old Masters have inspired me from youth and they still inspire me.

10. What are you painting at the moment?

have been lying fallow as I have never been very good at combining painting with other things and I have just moved into a new house that I built in Kingston. For about a year building and moving into the house has taken all my energy.

11. Your most loved possession?

The raw, undeveloped land that I have managed to buy around Rockfield gives me the most satisfaction.

12. Your house has the most beautiful veranda looking out to the garden, perfect for entertaining. Which living or dead artists would you invite to your dinner party?

I have invited Julio Larraz, the contemporary Cuban expatriate artist to a dinner party but he hasn’t come yet. I would have liked to have Lucien Freud as well but Edward Lucie- Smith would have to be there to speak to him because I would be much too awed. Although I have read that it was an intrepid soul who would try to meet his eyes across a room, which indicates that he was probably very shy as well, and Botero. I’m sure Botero would be fun.

13. And what would you serve?

Jamaica’s rural food cooked out on the barbeques

13. What should no Jamaican home be without?

An open veranda or terrace.

14. What’s the best advice you have been given?

Advice on painting water comes from Albert Huie…”you must ignore the water. Paint everything else and its refection as well as you can. Ignore the water until the very last day, then quickly add some touches of light and do not touch it again.”

Advice on writing a book comes from Edward Lucie-Smith “Write separate beads and then string the beads.”

Advice on negotiation from my father “Never close the door completely leave it open a crack so that your opponent can come back”

15. What are some of your favourite pieces from Jenny Mein Designs?

Jenny Mein Designs specialises in bone china tableware and textiles inspired by memories of the fruit and flowers in her beautiful childhood family garden in Jamaica? I especially love the Jamaican ackee design and treasure the coffee mug you gave me.

Jenny Mein in conversation with Judy Ann MacMillan
February 2021

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Guest Profile Q/A - Valerie Facey

Valerie Facey strolling on the beach, Jamaica

Mrs. Valerie Facey, patron of the arts and wife of the late Hon. Maurice Facey, O.J is the driving force behind the Mill Press, the well-known Facey family publishing house in Kingston, Jamaica.   Valerie Facey was born in England but has made Jamaica her home since the 1950s. It is her love of good books and her passionate interest in Jamaica’s heritage and natural resources that inspired the development of this remarkable publishing house.

THE MILL PRESS is a prestigious publishing house in Jamaica incorporated in 1990 whose aim is to showcase Jamaica’s rich historical heritage with reproductions of rare old books and manuscripts as well as quality productions of new and varied titles.   Jenny Mein is in conversation with Valerie Facey.

  1. What has been your most favourite journey?
    From the age of 5 years old, I had the privilege of spending 7 extraordinary summers at the traditional farm of my Nanny/Governess (Minnie) at her humble home in Minnesota, USA.

  1. Which of your projects do you consider to have been your most passionate?
    My discovery and subsequent publication of “Belisario – Sketches of Character”. A historical biography of a Jamaican artist.
  1. Which living or dead historical figure would you invite to your dinner party?
    Isaac Mendes Belisario – 1794-1849.....OF COURSE!
  1. And what would you serve?
    Smoked marlin for starters; followed by Roast Leg of Lamb, with: lamb gravy,  roasted potatoes, lightly steamed broccoli, haricot vert, baby carrots, roasted, fried breadfruit chips; sauce for the lamb would be guava jelly w/fresh garden mint. Dessert: sweet potato pudding (pone) with rum sauce.
  1. What projects are you working on now?
    A History of the Facey famil.
    Ongoing research on  Constant Spring Estate, Kingston, Jamaica (since 1664.
    My autobiography.
  1. What is your home like? How do you decorate it?
    Jamaican/Georgian architecture with parquet flooring; filled with multiple shelves of books, paintings and sculptures.
  1. What are the favourite plants/trees in your Jamaican garden?
    The Mammee (‘Marmey’) Apple Tree…nutmeg tree, citrus trees, ornamentals; begonias and other tropical trees, plants and blooms.
  1. What is your most loved possession?
    My grandmother’s ‘Jensen’ upright piano w/cabriole legs
  1. What is your hobby?
    Reading and opera
  1. What is the best advice you have been given?
    To stay in Jamaica
  1. What items do you covet/would you buy from Jenny Mein Designs? Jenny Mein specialises in fine bone china tableware and textiles inspired by memories of the fruit and flowers growing in her beautiful childhood family garden in Jamaica? The bone china, especially the Breadfruit series.
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Q&A with Emma Lewis

Emma in a blouse by
Jamaican designer Courtney Washington

Emma Lewis is a writer, and blogger - regularly contributing to Global Voices and Jamaica Gleaner. She is director of both the Natural History Museum of Jamaica, and Recycling Partners of Jamaica. She is very active and passionate about  environmental issues. Jenny asked her some questions about her life in Jamaica...

1.  You have lived in Jamaica for 31 years - what is Christmas Day like in Jamaica compared with your childhood in Sussex, England?

For me, Christmas Day has changed over the years, depending on who I am spending it with, and where. We have lived in Jamaica for 31 years and we love Jamaican Christmas Day eats: baked ham, candied sweet potatoes, and a drink of sorrel (with a drop of white rum in it). Jamaican Christmas menus tend towards sweetness. At home in Sussex, England I always enjoyed the delicacies we ate only at Christmas: Turkish Delight, all powdery in a round tin, dried muscatels on the vine. Again, rather sweet!

2. What are the favourite plants/trees in your Jamaican garden?

I love everything in our Jamaican garden: lignum vitae trees (Jamaica’s National Flower); our stately guango tree; and our big bushes of pink, red and orange bougainvilleas.

3. What/who inspires you the most?

I am inspired by Jamaicans’ creativity, resilience and independence.

4. What do you wish you had known when you started your career/move to Jamaica?

I wish I had known how very trying life is for many Jamaicans, before I came here – how hard people work.

5. What items do you covet/would buy from Jenny Mein Designs?

So hard to choose, but I would buy the Caribbean Garden bone china set and a tankard mug. I love the breadfruit cachepot, too!

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Cats Chaos competition

Cats Chaos competition

Cats Chaos competition.

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Annual Commonwealth Countries League Fair 2019 held at Kensington Town Hall, London.

Annual Commonwealth Countries League Fair 2019 held at Kensington Town Hall, London.

Annual Commonwealth Countries League Fair 2019 held at Kensington Town Hall, London.

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Win £250 of Designer China for Jenny Mein Designs

A great offer for subscribers of ‘House Beautiful’ magazine.

1 prize to be won! Enter here: https://comps.housebeautiful.co.uk/competition/MeinDesigns_housebeautiful

Jenny Mein Designs are carefully produced to capture the essence and beauty of Caribbean gardens with their abundance of fruit and exotic flowers. 

You could win this fresh and pretty green and white bone china collection.  The design is  inspired by the Breadfruit which was brought from Tahiti to the West Indies in the 18th century by the great British explorer, Captain William Bligh of Mutiny on HMS Bounty fame. Its name is derived solely from the texture of the cooked fruit which is similar to that of freshly baked bread, hence its name.

The china is decorated with breadfruit motifs from original hand-paintings by Jenny Mein. The range includes co-ordinating place mats and coasters. The china is produced exclusively under patent to the highest standards at Stoke-on-Trent, England, using traditional methods and is hand- gilded.

The Jamaican Breadfruit bone china collection is one of a selection of collections available to view on the Jenny Mein Design website.

You can win one enchanting Breadfruit collection set comprising 4 dinner plates, 4 fruit plates and demitassee coffee cups and saucers - to the value of £250.

Competition ends on 31st August 2019.

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Floral interiors get gothic and surreal:super-sized flower prints featuring wild animals and household pests take over our homes this season

Floral furnishings are surreal this season. Super-sized blooms enfold entire walls, backgrounds are inky and moody, and colours unnatural. If you peer into the petals there could be stranger elements: is there really a snake in that bouquet?

Ted Baker puts bold bouquets on sateen double duvet covers, £90, and pillowcases, £35 a pair (ashleywildegroup.com).

Ralph Lauren’s swirling floral tableware in black or indigo is made by English craft pottery Burleigh (cereal bowl £32; salad plate £34).

And Jenny Mein hand-paints the exotic fruits and flowers of her childhood family garden in Jamaica for bone china made in Stoke-on-Trent (£16 for a mug, £20 for a salad plate).

Source: Homes and Property. Read full article.

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Tableware International Magazine : Celebrating the royal baby

Jenny Mein Designs has sent a line of its botanical bone china designs to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in celebration of the birth of their first child

London-based designer Jenny Mein of Jenny Mein Designs has despatched a selection of her botanical bone china from her china collections, which are inspired by the fruit and flowers of the Caribbean, to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who recently welcomed their first child, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, seventh in line to the throne.

The selected coffee cup and saucer designs also celebrate the roles of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’s roles as Commonwealth Youth Ambassadors.

The Espresso coffee cups and saucers feature the Jamaican ackee, a fruit from the ackee tree (Blighia sapida) which grows in gardens in Jamaica and is the national fruit of Jamaica. The ackee is also famous as the main ingredient in the delicious Jamaican recipe Ackee and Saltfish.

Other motifs include Breadfruit brought to the Caribbean from Tahiti in the 18th century by the great British explorer, Captain William Bligh of the mutiny on board HMS Bounty fame and finally, Caribbean Garden depicting fruit and flowers which are native to Caribbean gardens.

The china is decorated with original hand-paintings by Jenny Mein. The china is manufactured to the highest standards in Stoke-on-Trent, England, using traditional methods and is hand-gilded.

Jenny Mein is a former international magazine food editor and was inspired by memories of the flowering plants and fruit of her childhood’s beautiful family garden on an 18th century sugar estate in Jamaica to design her botanical bone china to celebrate the fruit and flowers of Caribbean gardens.

The Jamaican Ackee china collection was the first of her botanical china collections which was launched in 1998. Jenny has subsequently developed a number of individual ranges and featured in magazines and newspapers. The china collections are available to view and purchase at www.jennymeindesigns.com.

Source: Tableware International

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Jamaica Observer newspaper - August, 6th 2018


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British Vogue, December 2014 Christmas Issue

British Vogue, December 2014 Christmas Issue

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People: Jenny Mein - Design and Love", pages 110 -113


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Tableware International Magazine

Jenny Mein adds Caribbean flavour to the table

Jenny Mein, founder of Jenny Mein Designs, recently re-launced a stunning new website to showcase her exclusive fine bone china collection, "Breadfruit" inspired by the British Captain William Bligh of the Mutiny on the Bounty fame who introduced the breadfruit to Jamaica in the 18th century. The china is produced exclusively under patent and finished to the highest standard using traditional methods in Stoke-on-Trent, England, home of the British china industry.

The collection includes, coffee mugs, salad plates, delicate pill boxes, fruit bowls, jugs, square candy dishes and is ideal for special gifts, birthdays/anniversaries or sumptuous dinner sets for the stylish home.

View the article at Tableware International

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Absolutely Magazine

Jenny Mein Designs feature in Absolutely Magazine, london, England www.zest-media.com, April 2013

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Jenny Mein at the annual Commonwealth Countries League fair

Jenny Mein at the annual Commonwealth Countries League fair held at Kensington Town Hall, London with Jamaica's High Commissioner to London, HE Aloun Assamba

Jenny Mein at the annual Commonwealth Countries League Fair with Kensington Mayoress, Ann Hobson

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Jamaica's 'Mein' Course

Jenny Mein interviewed for the Jamaica Observer:

Full article: www.jamaicaobserver.com/lifestyle/Jamaica-s--Mein--Course_12097652

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