Big tings a gwaan down di streetis the first exhibition in the UK that explores the visual language of Jamaican streets, expressed through the omnipresence of hand-painted signs, street murals and graffiti found on walls across the island. The exhibition includes a collection of photographs, original Jamaican signs and video stories collected by Tracey Thorne on her journeys across five parishes on the island of Jamaica.
This project had three key focuses: to meet the sign painters and learn about their practice; to explore the types of street (mural) art found in Jamaica; and to walk the streets to find examples of other messages daubed and graffitied on walls.
On the street, the convergence of commercial signs, daubed graffiti and the painted murals create a rich visual landscape reflecting aspects of Jamacian life and culture. The author Marlon James describes the importance of the sign to Jamacian culture beautifully. He says; “if hip-hop’s visual language is graffiti, then dancehall’s visual language is the sign, the event poster – the notice that ‘big tings a gwaan down di street’.”