The Dreamer: Jackson Logan Burnside III

By in News on May 18, 2011

Jackson Burnside III“I dream of things that never were and say, Why Not?”
— George Bernard Shaw

Jackson Logan Burnside III, “Jacks”, or “Jacko” to some of his friends, “Doc” to his schoolmates at St. Augustine’s College and “Bubbles” to his schoolmates at Lincoln University was so many things to so many people. One has only to refer to the comments expressed by the artistic community in last Saturday’s Arts & Culture of The Nassau Guardian or on his Facebook page to gain a glimpse of exactly how people felt about this giant of a man who left us last week for a far better place after his short sojourn of only sixty-two (62) years. Hence this week, we would like to Consider This… who was Jackson Logan Burnside III?

He has been described as a national icon, philosopher, artist, architect par excellence, Junkanooer, warrior, leader, visionary, mentor, a humble, happy, witty soul, wise, joyful, motivating, inspiring, creative, a grounded worldly intellectual spirit, a renaissance man, and above all, always a true, true Bahamian. And while he was all of these things, first of all he was a dreamer. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, Jackson would always “dream of things that never were and say, Why Not?” He was the consummate out-of-the-box thinker who always dared us to dream the impossible dream, and constantly challenged us not to view the glass as half-empty, but half-full.

As a professional architect, Jackson transformed spaces with joyful exuberance, ever mindful of his late teacher, the legendary architect Louis Kahn’s admonitions that “form must follow function” and that “Architecture is reaching out for the truth”. Jackson’s vision translated his tremendous intellect by transcending reality to manifest into edifices that would tell a story to all those who simply looked at the structure. He created spaces that invited us to experience each room, immersing ourselves in a virtual reality of his vision, serving as a constantly renewing feeling of well-being for its occupants.

As a consummate artist and cultural critic, whether through his visual art or his participation in Junkanoo, Jacko pushed the envelope, always honing and perfecting his craft by transcending the obvious in order to illuminate the obscure, and accentuate the sublime.

Artist: Jackson BurnsideIn an era when Bahamian visual art was more known for its realistic depiction of colorful landand seascapes, Jackson not only chose to listen to his own artistic soul, but he decided to join with five other very prominent Bahamian artists, the late Brent Malone, Max Taylor, Antonius Roberts, John Beadle and his brother, Stan Burnside, to address these dated and confining ideas of what Bahamian art should be. The result, Bahamian Creative Artists United for Serious Expression, otherwise known as B-CAUSE, blew the art world of The Bahamas wide open, demonstrating globally that Bahamian art transcended the picture postcard genre and was, instead, pulsing with a dynamism as vibrant as the beat of a goatskin drum and as vital as the tides that washed the shores of Jackson’s beloved islands. Before disbanding, B-CAUSE exhibited their work in Washington, D.C., Brazil, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Japan.

Jackson also made his mark in the art world by establishing Doongalik art galleries, places that fostered and displayed artists of all disciplines and places where Jackson delighted in exhibiting newcomers, exposing Bahamians and visitors alike to the vast scope of the creative Bahamian community.

Jackson Burnside, JunkanooIn Junkanoo, his unique and revolutionary touch was evident in all areas. His constant desire to stretch the boundaries of what had been traditional and acceptable shattered the status quo, bringing new techniques, new ideas and new approaches that completely defied previously set limits, helping to make the Junkanoo of the 21st century a limitless art form, restricted only by the infinite human spirit and imagination.

As a committed citizen, he continually challenged us to consider how and why we should critically confront our consciousness to transform the land of his birth into the greatest country on Earth, not only by considering the here and now, but with a persistent perspective of what impact our actions today will have on our community for years to come and for generations of Bahamians yet unborn. His vision was of a nation where sun, sand and sea would become a secondary attraction for tourists who, he believed, would be far more entranced and inspired to visit because of what he saw as a unique and wonderful culture that permeated and defined a distinctive people.

Jackson relentlessly personified passion in everything he did, whether manifested in the creative designs of his Junkanoo costumes, his dance maneuvers to the melodious Junkanoo rhythm of his One Family group on Bay Street, or the strident stances that he proffered on political, social or cultural issues of the day. As one of the founders of the One Family Junkanoo group, he happily and proactively transferred the torch of leadership of that group to Darren Bastian, many years his junior, because, unlike too many other leaders in our community, he appreciated that real leadership demanded that there must be a plan of succession. He not only talked the talk; he walked the walk.

This passion was on public display every Saturday morning on his landmark radio program, “Junkanoo Talks”, a program he was admonished not to attempt because, after all, who would want to discuss Junkanoo from January to November? After 13 years, this was another myth Jackson Burnside shattered, demonstrating to the nation that Junkanoo — and Bahamian culture — was a conversation that everyone wanted to have, every single week of the year.

Jackson possessed an avowed Afrocentric spirit with a temperament that embraced all people of all races, creeds, and national origins, always deeply appreciating that he was both a citizen of the world and a child of the universe. His time on the African continent, when he hitchhiked to many places Westerners never see, opened his eyes to this place of the ancestors, giving him a depth of understanding that few Bahamians of his generation were able to attain.

Jackson constantly celebrated life with vigor and vim. He was grounded — very much in touch and content with the man who he was, deeply loving his family and never afraid to demonstrate it. He was fond of speaking about his older brother in the words: “me and my brother Stan” and doted on his wife, Pam, and his daughters Ebony and Orchid. All of his family gatherings included his other siblings, Julia and Wayman. Following the death of his father, Dr. Jackson Burnside, he routinely escorted Mother (Gertrude) Burnside to 7:00 a.m. Sunday Mass at St. Agnes.

Jackson Burnside at his deskJacko’s legacy can be found throughout our Commonwealth, whether it is depicted in the hallmark homes, offices and other buildings he designed, including the magnificent Marina Village that he erected on Paradise Island. Remnants of his spirit will forever be immortalized in the art that adorns the offices and homes throughout The Bahamas and in countries near and far from our Bahamaland. Most importantly, his spirit will live forever through the many young Bahamian artists and Junkanooers that he mentored, many of whom have gone on to become world-class artists in their own right. To paraphrase Mark Antony’s oration and tribute to the fallen Caesar, the good that Jackson has done will not be interred with his bones. It will live on.

And what of Jackson the dreamer? Every life that he has touched and every soul that has had the privilege to come into contact with this Bahamian artistic, cultural and professional icon, and those whom he has affected with a kind word, a caring admonition or a critical comment will remember Jackson, the man, as a person who made a difference by passing this way.

Jackson Logan Burnside III will long be remembered by those left behind as a person who, in the words of George Bernard Shaw, dreamt of things that never were, and continued to ask, Why Not?

By Philip C. Galanis,
Managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament.

Source: The Nassau Guardian

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