Best known as a visual artist, Jamaican Gloria Escoffery, born in 1923, also played an important role in the cultural transformation of Jamaican writings during the mid-century nationalist moment and was part of an influential network of creative and politically progressive women: including Vera Bell, Edna Manley and Una Marson. Having won the prestigious 1942 ‘island scholarship,’ she travelled to Canada for her studies at McGill University in Montreal. Returning home to a Jamaica where nationalist politics and the arts were closely allied, Escoffery worked as a journalist and took on the role of literary editor for the PNP’s weekly, Public Opinion. Escoffery studied art at London’s renowned Slade School of Art in the 1950s, but having later gained a teaching qualification at UWI Mona, it was English Literature she taught in the sixth form of Brown’s Town community college. Escoffery maintained creative writing and journalism alongside her painting career in an incredibly productive and modest creative life.
Escoffery’s poetry has been widely anthologised in Caribbean Voices (1982), Breaklight (1971), Caribbean Poetry Now (1995), and The Penguin Book of Caribbean Verse (1986). Collections appeared in three decades: Landscape in the Making (1976); Loggerhead (1988) and Mother Jackson Murders the Moon (1998). She also wrote short fiction and her story, “The Bougainvilia,” published in the 1956 volume of Focus, is a lovely example that narrates a variety of encounters and exchanges that take place during a Sunday afternoon in Hope Gardens, Kingston. It focuses our attention on a young female artist who intently endeavours to do justice to the red of the bougainvilia, oblivious to the fact that she, in fact, occupies the frame of human attention.
More about the author
In the March 1971 issue of Jamaica Journal, Escoffery discusses the connections between painting and poetry and her career path.
Considered a pioneer of Jamaican art, Escoffery imbued many paintings with a dream-like quality. The National Gallery of Jamaica delves into her work.
In an obituary, The Guardian featured Escoffery as a creator of “intellectually demanding visual and literary work… full of social satire, symbolism, and mythology…”