In this installation of Our Stories, law student and visual artist Kuruma Shamar Reid explains how he balances two passions…For many people, Jamaica is pictured as an island paradise- white sandy beaches, a beautiful and vivacious culture, rich and wholesome food, and attractive people. And while that image is not far from the truth, if the lens is focused on the inspirational stories of ordinary Jamaicans, you’d find a sharper, richer and truer image of the Jamaican experience… this is Our Stories!

University life can be one of the most trying times of a student’s journey. Surely there are grand moments, however, the challenge for some comes from trying to find a strategy to do extremely well while trying to build their network. In my opinion, university students nowadays are more independent as they are developing innovative business ideas to gain money, aside from their parental provision. It is even better when students can draw on their skills and abilities to readily capture potential and actual customers, who are sometimes other students. And this is not easy but several have found ways to balance school and manage well-structured businesses while maintaining a good grade point average (GPA).

Meet Kuruma Shamar Reid- Law Student and Visual Artist

He is a 21-year-old who is pursuing his passion for visual arts and has turned his talent into a business all while attaining a Bachelor of Law degree at the University of the West Indies. His intense passion and love for visual arts empowered him to cultivate and hone his artistic skills even without having any formal training.

Why did you choose to pursue art?

For me, Art is therapy. Ever since high school, particularly from grade 10, I found that art was my thing, not because I was placed 6th in the island in CAPE but mainly because I won numerous art competitions, ranging from grade ten to upper 6. I got a two in CAPE Law, lower sixth and a one in upper sixth, which open a door for me. So it was either between Law school or Art school.

Why did you choose to pursue law?

Peer pressure made me choose Law. I mean, I did well in CAPE Law Units 1 and 2 which basically suggested that maybe I had a future in this field, however, I felt as though my peers, family members and even societal perception and preference of studying a prestigious field played a part in me choosing to do so.

Do you regret choosing to do so?

No. I have already started this journey and I intend to finish well.

What is the name of your Art Venture?

The name of my venture is called Kreative Kuma, where Activity meets purpose.

What services do you provide?

I provide two main services. I do commission services and personal pieces. Commission services are my main source of income. My customers are usually high stakeholders, executives or corporate managers. I have done pieces for the Nigerian Commissioner, the owner of a restaurant, Reggae Mill Bar, and others. I also do personal pieces that I sell on the side. Customers may want pieces for their personal usage or for birthday gifts, anniversary gifts or even for beatification purposes. These pieces are at a specific size however customers do request larger pieces, somethings as tall as themselves or smaller pieces, I try my best to widen the horizon to accommodate what the client wants. My customers in this area are mainly friends, family or friends of my relatives.

What is your first Art Collection about?

I did my first collection entitled the ‘Children of Africa’, that was inspired by Chronixx’s song ‘Black is Beautiful’. The purpose behind this collection was to exploit African Beauty. My personal view is that Jamaica doesn’t [sic] appreciate, to a full extent, their culture and appreciation for the African beauty and African Art. Apart from me wanting to do something that I love, given that I have an African name, and I appreciate and love my name which was derived from Zimbabwe, I wanted to give something back by way of my art pieces. But the question was, how can I show my appreciation for African and African cultures? This is where my love for portraits and art came in and what better way of showing my love for portraits of African art and what better way by using persons that actually came from Africa.

How do you come up with inspiration for each pieces?

I sat down and did my research to pinpoint actual persons from those countries. Each piece I do is inspired by an African country’s name, the subject matter or the person I selected came from the country in which the country’s name is assigned to. My piece that actually drove the point of African consciousness and beauty was a piece that I did entitled ‘Tanzania.’

She is an African Tanzania Albino. Albinos are hunted and killed and their bones are used as witchcraft in some parts in Africa… Hunted like animals and killed. If we should look at albinos in Jamaica, our own Yellow Man you will see that his face is disfigured and many Jamaicans may say that he is ugly. However, I believe that everyone has their own right to beauty. Being beautiful should not be objective but should be subjective. Being beautiful can be anything. We have own strengths and weaknesses. My piece entiled ‘Tanzania’ embodies that. Each of my pieces have some tribal accessories to them such as beaded chains, hooped earrings and partial nudity, etc. Those are things I wanted to bring out through my art pieces. Let’s appreciate Africa more!

How long does it take you to finish a piece?

Minimum three days and those are three consecutive days of work, few hours of sleep and no breaks. When I’m really in tuned, everything is at the back burner so to speak. The maximum is two weeks where sizes range from 5 feet or more.

Do you plan on furthering your studies in Visual Art?

Firstly, I don’t want persons to think that you must have a formal education to pursue the Arts. You can pursue Arts without having a formal education and still do exceptionally well, that is what I’m doing right now. Will I further my studies? Yes, I see myself going to the Edna Manley School of Visual and Performing Arts specializing in graphic designs and ceramics. Because yes I can do all types of drawings but what can I do outside of that? I want to do ceramic pieces, make large vase, maybe open my own graphic design business. You never know.

How do you manage to balance both Art and Law school?

It is simple, throughout the semester I literally put down all the pens, paper, everything art and focus on Law only because Art is a very time-consuming thing and with Law requires a lot of reading. The same amount of time I would take to draw is the same amount of time I would need to read if I intend to stay on top of my courses. So when I am within a particular semester I don’t do any art pieces especially my second semester when final exams are near. After the semester, when I have Easter break, Summer and Christmas holidays that is when I do art. At that time, I do not touch anything Law material. Just drawing. I must add that at times, it isn’t easy I lose out on sleep, my academics were affected at one point as well as my social life. Sometimes I get a request from a client and that may take a few days of dedication to have a finished product on the assigned date.

You mentioned that pursing Law was based on peer pressure. Which will be inevitably Law, Art or both?

I think that art…if there was a race, Art would be that Usain Bolt in that scenario because it is my passion. I am willing to stay up at nights drawing people than staying up to read. That’s just the truth. However, even though I agree that inevitably art would be the one I would choose, I have 1.3 million reasons as to why I cannot just do away with my Law degree. So somehow Art would be the pioneer of the ship but I’m going to try to find a way to incorporate some elements of Law within my Art business. There is this thing in Law called Intellectual Property and Sports and Entertainment Law which deals with the whole copyright aspect of Art as well as entertainment products, etc. I think that visual artists do not know the proper procedures to go about copyrighting their work, so all over the world their works are going for some ridiculous prices and they are not benefitting from that. So if I can help those persons, I’ll be paid while at the same time pursuing art and knowing exactly how to copy my products as well.

Where do you see (Kreative Kuma) art in the next five years?

The next five years? In high school there is this thing called Critical Analysis, an artist critique. This is where students will research particular artists all over the Caribbean and they will select an artist that is compatible with their technique whether it be pen and ink, painting, ceramics, etc. Within five years’ time, I want persons to naturally draw on my name regionally to say ‘ok Kuruma will be the artist that I would like to be or an inspiration’. In order for me to reach that level or capacity certain opportunity have to come knocking before I can ultimately reach that goal, within the five years’ span. So I want to be a recipient of the Prime Ministers Youth Award for Arts and Culture and with that said the criteria is simple for one of your pieces to be curated… for an international curator to comment on your piece, or local curators to speak about your pieces, you’ll have to submit all of that to a committee.

Now after all of that being said and it is done. Obviously, I would have certain credentials to my name. Seeing myself five years after accomplishing all of that is to be an accomplished visual artist as well as an inspirational public speaker. I think my journey or story can be inspiring to others. If I can have a platform to encourage persons to go after what you want that would be really beneficial for me because one I would be the one inspiring them and as such they will always remember my work, and two they would actually pursue their dreams. So in the next five years’ time, I would want to be a practicing lawyer all while incorporating Law with Art as well as an established visual artist and an Inspirational speaker.

What is your message to young creatives like yourself?

I want to inspire young creatives like myself to pursue what they love. I would encourage them to work on their product. I want them to understand that purpose doesn’t have a starting or ending point, it is not like the rock of Gibraltar that can’t be moved. Work assiduously on your craft and in time you will reap the rewards. Start somewhere, Kingston Creative Art Walk was the platform I started with. The experience was really good and the feedback was profound. It encouraged me to continue. Additionally, having a good mentor helps to guide you throughout your journey. Nadine Clemetson is my mentor and good friend that has been there to uplift or advise me on what actions to take. Find someone that can guide you. I really hope that my pieces can impact someone to pursue their talent and also to show love and appreciation for African beauty and appreciation for themselves.

Wow! Thank you Kuruma for sharing your story and we wish you continued success.