The First International Reggae Poster Contest Image

by Tanaka Tiki Roberts

The First International Reggae Poster Contest hosted in 2012 sought to discover fresh Reggae Poster designs from around the world. The theme 'Toward A Reggae Hall of Fame: Celebrating Great Jamaican Music' managed to garner a remarkable response of 1,142 entries from 80 countries including Côte d'Ivoire, Russia, Estonia and Turkey. After four months, the contest was concluded and Alon Braier from Israel was awarded first place for his "Roots of Dub" design.

Braier was first exposed to Reggae music as a teenager by his father who owned several Reggae albums. He told that his poster was designed as a tribute to the great pioneers of Dub music, explaining further, "Within the poster, I tried to capture the free spirit of the music and its experimental patterns and shapes. The main stars of the poster are King Tubby, Lee "Scratch" Perry and Augustus Pablo, alongside some vintage studio equipment and the legendary "Swing a Ling" sound system."

Along with being a graphic designer, Braier is also a musician, skilled with both the saxophone and bass guitar. He's played with several local Reggae bands but it was in his third year of art-college that he found himself really getting into dub. To date the artist is still an avid lover of Reggae music, about which he shared, "Reggae music impacted me mostly in a social way, the first big music festival I have ever went to was a Reggae themed one, somewhere in the woods of North Israel. The experience was amazing, I fell in love with the people and the atmosphere almost immediately .Until this day it is the soundtrack of a wonderful era in my life."

Braier won an Apple iPad 2 16 GB, a copy of the published Reggae Poster Contest 2012 catalogue, Tougher Than Tough: The Story Of Jamaican Music (4 DVD Box Set), The Bob Marley and the Wailers: Live Forever Box Set (Includes book, vinyl and CD), Bob Marley and the Golden Age of Reggae – Hardcover Book, among other prizes.

Master-minds behind the contest Jamaican-born Michael Thompson and Maria Papaefstathiou from Greece also gave an exclusive insider on the 2012 contest and what we can expect from another staging of the Reggae Poster Contest, here's what they had to say:

JamaicansMusic: Why choose Reggae as the theme for your poster contest?

Maria: Well, we didn't want to make just any kind of poster contest. Our goal was to start a contest specifically for reggae, Michael wanted a platform to project and spread the message about a bigger vision to see to the establishment of an iconic Frank Gehry Reggae Hall of Fame Museum and performance center in Kingston, Jamaica. This was his way of building a global movement around that message. We also wanted to spread awareness about the positive impact the genre has made globally. Michael can expand on that more.

Michael: The idea for the contest came out of a frustration with the lack of any significant institution in Jamaica to celebrate, and preserve the greatness and richness of the legacy of reggae music. I am talking about Ska, Rocksteady, Dub, Roots Reggae and the unique Jamaican Sound system; the full spectrum of the music. Some efforts have been made but have fell short to fully capture the magic of this special music- Nothing powerful enough to attract thousands to Jamaica. The question of "why not a Reggae Hall of Fame?" has haunted me, and what can I do to trumpet a solution. I wanted to get the attention of Jamaica and the world, and those with vested interest in the music to begin to see the music as more than just big hits and memorable recordings, rather to see it as a far richer cultural asset that can do more for Jamaica economically and at the same time preserve this treasure. The foundation artistes and musicians are aging and many have passed away and are forgotten. We must preserve their legacy and remember the pioneers. We all know that the reggae brand is a global musical phenomenon, and we wanted this contest to be a bull horn to present this grand vision, to see to the establishment of a Frank Gehry style museum, a research and performance space in the heart of Jamaica's capital city, Kingston where the music was invented. This is the primary objective of the contest and more than just a contest, it is a spark for a catalytic idea- An idea that could ultimately change the face of Kingston and Jamaica. If you can dream you can see it.

JM:  How did you know a Reggae poster contest would "work"/ How did you know that it would strike the interest of others?

Maria: When you start something new you don't know it will work. We knew that people the world over love reggae music, but we never expect such big interest. We were getting very excited as we were receiving the posters more every day as the dates were getting closer to deadline. We knew what we had to do to get attention using social media, Facebook, Twitter etc. As a premier contest we had to come with a sound strategy. First, we had to attract some of the top poster designers and graphic artists who are respected international in their field to our jury committees, and second, we had to develop a website that immediately screams "professionalism," That was our game plan to attract global interest and support. Even then, you are still not sure how successful a contest you will achieve.

Michael: We could not predict the response. However, I had more than a hunch that reggae has this powerful draw, and I believe designers would love the narrative of our vision. When you think about the vibrancy of reggae culture and couple that to contemporary poster design that makes a perfect synergy. I personally have been inspired by reggae music and this is reflected heavily in my Freestylee poster art. I was curious to see how other artists and designers from around the world would present the message and the music. We were not disappointed. 1,142 posters from 80 countries is a big success by any measure for a first time contest, this is the reality of the power of reggae music and of course hard work. We also have to thank all those who supported our vision and the contest; Susan Lee Quee, Audrey Headley, Barrington Barr, Veerle Poupeye, Kazuyuki Yoshimura, Earl Blake, our families and our distinguished panel of Judges, who all said yes, let's do it and we want to participate. We have to big up Susan Lee Quee for giving her precious time to helping us create our amazing website!

JM: What did you hope to achieve from this contest?

Maria: We hope to see more great iconic reggae designs in the future coming out of the contest, we want to stimulate different, out of the box designs representing reggae culture, rather that cliché stereotypical expressions commonly visualized by some. The 2012 results show us that it is possible to have museum quality fine art posters representing reggae music. In consequence, we wanted to use this contest also to do something positive for the music and Jamaican society. This year for example, we wish to use the 100 best posters to raise money for a great Jamaican institution, the Alpha Boys' School. A school for wayward boys is an institution which has produced some of the great pioneer Jamaican musicians. Notable alumni include: Desmond Dekker, Tommy McCook, Dizzy Moore, Don Drummond and Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace to name a few.

Michael: First we wanted to get the attention of the world to see our vision, we believe we are getting that attention. Second, we want to support the great Alpha Boys School and share it's achievements with the world. This institution has done a fantastic job with very little resources and funding. I can say without Alpha there would be music in Jamaica, but definitely not reggae music. Ultimately, we hope to leverage the global support we received through the contest to achieve great things for the music and Jamaica.

JM: Did you anticipate such an overwhelming response?

Maria: To tell you the truth, we didn't. We were surprised to see how much designers loved the idea. I believe the world loved the idea as it was the first time ever this kind of contest was announced. This was one of the reasons I loved the idea when Michael asked me to collaborate in this.

Michael: As Maria mentioned, we were surprised and did not anticipate such a massive response, and at the same time we understood the power of reggae music and also the legacy of singers like Bob Marley, Prince Buster and musicians like the Skatalites. Bob and other great Jamaican singers have left deep roots in every corner of our planet. Our belief and confidence in the music is paramount in helping us forge ahead with the contest when others had doubts. What we could not be certain of is how artists and designers around the world would respond to our call, now we know our instincts were correct.

JM:  What struck you most about the winner's piece? What edge did he have over the others?

Maria: Alon Braier submission was fresh and captured the essence of reggae perfectly. Personally, I loved his colors as well as the balance in his art. You see it and it grabs you, our judges I guess saw that in the piece as well. It is amazing how well he combined shapes and portraits conveying the story of Reggae and Dub in particular.

Michael: What struck me most about Alon Braier's poster design is his powerful clean lines and iconic characters. He captured three icons of reggae, Agustus Pablo, Lee "Scratch" Perry and King Tubby, the pioneers of Dub in an epic reggae poster. You could almost feel the music coming through his poster. Alon's poster stood out, you could not ignore the vibrancy and execution of the design and original illustration. The aesthetics and style of his poster is well balanced, and well thought out. Turns out he is an amazing illustrator and visual communicator (see his interview in Graphic-art News: This is what a good poster is supposed to do. Grab you. Gunter Rambow the great German poster designer once said "A great poster shall be like a mountain, a castle or a house that survives many centuries." We think Alon's poster fit that description.

JM: Will this become and annual contest?

Maria: Definitely. We are already preparing for 2013. We will continue until our primary objective is achieved. It is a great platform to spread this message, so why not continue this journey. We have built a global following on social media through the contest. The encouragement and support continue to flow for the idea, we anticipate many artists and designers will be eager to participate in 2013.

JM: How do you plan on improving the contest for next year if this becomes an annual event?

Maria: Yes indeed. We will take the lessons learnt from 2012, and expand on them in 2013, to spread the contest's message further and wider. We would love to see more artists and designers participation coming from the Caribbean region including Cuba and we will double our efforts to achieve that. Cuba for example has a tradition of great poster designs and we would love to see their participation. Reggae has a significant following in Japan; we will include some translation in Japanese to attract more Japanese designers to the contest. Africa is another area we would love to see more participation, we received many submissions from Ghana, however, we would love to see much more submissions coming from countries like Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. In 2013 RPC will continue to find new avenues to raise funds, through collaborations, and working with the right entities to expand our global footprint. We're in discussion with a German NGO initiative helping disadvantage kids in Jamaica and we hope to use the contest to help them in their fund raising and awareness campaign.

JM: Is there anything new that you learned about Reggae music through the poster contest?

Maria: Yeah! I would say that I learned a lot about Reggae music that I did not know, and about Jamaica and its wonderful culture. Another interesting thing we saw was how people see the poster art and the willingness of designers to participate. Designing for social awareness is something that designers are intrigued to do because they are giving back to society. It was disappointed to see that there are still graphic designers thinking to design only for money and can't think how their design can be a bridge to world's social sensitivity.

Michael: I agree with Maria on the issue of Social design, our contest is an example of how social design can make a difference. Social message or in reggae terms "conscious message" is the success of reggae music; Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown, Burning Spears, all used music as a powerful vehicle for protest, solidarity and spreading Rastafari positive vibes. Visual artists can also learn from them and do the same through social design.

Turning to your question, The RPC contest brings to the forefront the dynamism of the music, our contestants explored many layers of reggae roots. It was interesting to see the themes, illustrations and the language used in many of the winning posters, combined with the vernacular of Reggae culture, it is clear the designers understand the history of the music and the culture. We were constantly reminded that this music is truly global and it has captured the creative imagination of many around the world. Now we have the visual proof.

JM: What will the catalogue of the contest include? How can our fans get a copy of it?

Maria: The catalogue actually will be a book featuring all 200 winning posters of 2012-2013 contests as well as the posters contributed by our jury members and friends of the contest; works of renowned poster artists such as Andrew Lewis, Luba Lukova, Roy Villalobos, John Moore, Frank Arbelo, and Kathiana Cardona Reyna will add to the amazing posters in the collection. We will announce in 2013 when the contest catalogue will be published and available for purchase.

JM: Any final comments?

Maria: We would like to tell our contest friends in Spain, that the three winning posters will be on exhibition at the Rototom Sunsplash Music Festival throughout the nine day festival beginning on August 16, 2012. Money raised from the posters will go to Alpha Boys School. We are organizing our first official exhibition in Jamaica in late October, with all 100 best posters presented at the National Gallery of Jamaica in Kingston, followed by another exhibition in Athens, Greece at the AKTO School of Design in November. Many other surprises will follow in the next months and in 2013.

For more information about the First International Reggae Poster Contest visit:

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