Kapo and the Father of Spirulina

Jamaica_Governor_with_Kapo_and_Christopher_Hills

Some time ago, while doing some leisurely online research, I came across a lengthy and most curious Wikipedia entry, which you can read here. The Wikipedia entry is on Christopher Hills, who was one of the owners of the Hills Art Gallery, along with his wife Norah, formerly Deputy Headmistress at Wolmer’s High School for Girls, who took care of day to day operations. The Hills Art Gallery was Jamaica’s first major commercial art gallery and operated from 1953 to 1977 at 101 Harbour Street in downtown Kingston, within walking distance from the Myrtle Bank Hotel, which was then Kingston’s main hotel. The entry discusses the Hills Art Gallery in some detail, and features a remarkable photo of a young Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds at the opening of his 1957 exhibition there, in the company of Christopher Hills and Governor Sir Hugh Foot. Christopher Hills, we are told, was also an early advocate of Rastafari.

Most of that I already knew, because of previous research. The Hills Art Gallery, while heavily focused on tourism, was crucially important in launching the careers of artists such as Alexander Cooper, Kapo, Gaston Tabois and Sidney McLaren, and made serious efforts to encourage the appreciation of self-taught popular art and to develop local art audiences. It provided an important commercial counterpart to the efforts of the Institute of Jamaica and its art gallery, and also took on occasional non-profit projects, such as an exhibition of Puerto Rican printmaking on the occasion of the state visit of Luis Muñoz Marin in 1955, which was the first exhibition in Jamaica of Caribbean art from outside of the English-speaking islands.

But imagine my surprise, when I read in the Wikipedia article that Christopher Hills is regarded as the “Father of Spirulina” and was a major figure in the New Age movement as well as a friend of Nehru. The praise heaped on Hills in the Wikipedia entry is effusive and I cannot vouch for its accuracy, although Wikipedia has fairly good checks and balances these days, and the entry has not been flagged as problematic, so I have to assume that it is substantially accurate.

My own knowledge of spirulina really begins and ends with the Chronixx song but Christopher Hills’ life story, embellished as it may be, is certainly fascinating. I have to wonder how his visionary ideas and projects were influenced by his years in Jamaica and his encounters with the likes of Kapo and the Rastafari movement in the 1950s and 1960s. The Wikipedia entry actually claims that his involvement with Rastafari awakened his spiritual interests and describes him as the “first white Rasta.” And I also wonder whether Hills’ advocacy of spirulina, which started when he was still regularly visiting Jamaica, might in turn have influenced the health food culture of Rastafari. It is a subject well worth exploring for those who are interested in these subjects, so I thought it worth sharing here.

 

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