BASHY Magazine gives some much-needed gravitas to how the media sees Jamaican culture
The new publication aims to 'finally put how Jamaica is understood back into the hands of Jamaican creatives'
Last February, writer, editor and multimedia artist Sharine Taylor had an idea. A student of Media Studies and a freelancing music and culture journalist — Taylor attends the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus, where she previously served as the editor-in-chief for the campus paper — her interest in media-making as a diasporic Jamaican woman of African descent was and always has been a guiding motivation in her work. After an internship at Vice's music vertical Noisey, a solo exhibition facilitated entirely by Taylor herself and an impressive photo-and-prose book production run, her focus on alternative media-making sharpened.
Frustrated with popularized, yet cyclical conversations on the revival of dancehall in North American and European rap and pop, Taylor decided that she'd had enough. Like all cultural sounds, trends and styles, dancehall's history far preceded the uptick in interest by mostly non-Jamaican artists. The task of explaining and re-explaining fundamental truths and realities bored her; she was ready for nuanced, engaging debate where a working knowledge of specific context was a given.
"I was asked to write collaboratively on a piece about dancehall and the end results weren't to my liking," she tells me over email. "I thought to myself, 'What if, amidst all these publications in the Global North, a publication that spoke more authoritatively about Jamaica and its cultural production [existed, too]?'"
Going live online and available for purchase on February 25, BASHY Magazine — of which Taylor is editor-in-chief, creative director and founder — was born out of that thought. What could be possible when the target demographic is your own community? A people with whom Taylor shares similarities with by virtue of being, and not through the labour of exhausting repetition or a damning compromise? Aiming to celebrate the works of Jamaicans, both in the country and in its far-reaching diaspora, the magazine is organized into four distinct sections, all headed with their own respective editors: music, culture, arts and style. BASHY uniquely prioritizes regional editors too, whose purpose is to better "capture the voices of diaspora" as organically and authentically as possible.
By having editors in the regions where the population and presence of Jamaicans in undeniable, Taylor hopes to make BASHY a publication as balanced and ethical it can be, in terms of content and representation of contributors and their diverse perspective, even in its hyper-Jamaican intention.
"Each of our contributors and editors took on the task of introducing or reintroducing an aspect of Jamaican — diaspora included — ways of living and interacting with ourselves and others," she writes in the editor's note of BASHY's introductory issue. "That was and is the purpose of this magazine: to finally put how Jamaica is understood back into the hands of Jamaican creatives, writers, photographers and content creators."
BASHY's first issue is not a reclamation of nationalism and a derivative identity that typically accompanies it. Rather, it spills over with thoughtful contemplation, dense and unbending narrative and true curiosity of what exists beyond what we know.- Amani Bin Shikhan, writer
"The first issue is called 'The Beginning.' I wanted it to serves as a means to reintroduce aspects of Jamaica to our readers while introducing ourselves," Taylor explains. "We're offering refreshing takes on aspects of Jamaican culture and identity and discussing some things that don't always get reported on. In my mind, everything is political."
By reworking understandings of the country and its cultural weight — both within Jamaican locales and communities and well outside them — BASHY reimagines what it means to think of seemingly ordinary expression as openings to conversations much greater than their presumed capabilities or utility. Take language; Rashida Grant's meditation on happiness in her story "Land of Wood, Water and Laughter" explores emotion and economy. Take food; Denai Moore and Elete Nelson-Fearon's feature on Jamaican vegans complicates food memory and tradition, celebrating Ital vital foods and lifestyle. Take rebellion; Shanice Wilson's photo essay on revolution, past and living, as a descendant of Maroons tells the story of "an island within an island."
Featuring a lush combination of original photography, illustration and words (essays, poems, stories and interviews), BASHY's first issue is not a reclamation of nationalism and a derivative identity that typically accompanies it. Rather, it spills over with thoughtful contemplation, dense and unbending narrative and true curiosity of what exists beyond what we know to be a widely accepted, unmoving truth. BASHY uproots any preconceived notions of what it means to be or to think of Jamaica through an approach that encourages multiplicity over singularity, no matter how enticing it may be.
Thinking about about her future and the future of the magazine, Taylor says this: "I told my mom that BASHY would be my career and life's work, and I think, at the time, I said it lightheartedly — but I mean it now. For me, the future involves lots of sun, carnival, dancehall, oxtail, stewpeas, patties from Tastees and making BASHY shot!" Taylor envisions an eventual brick-and-mortar office or two for BASHY, as well — one in Toronto and one in Jamaica, to start. And what Taylor bless, no man can curse.