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Rex Nettleford

Biography

Born February 3,1933 in Falmouth, Jamaica, Nettleford graduated from Cornwall College in Montego
Bay, Jamaica, before going to the University of the West Indies (UWI) to obtain an honours degree in
history.
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He was a recipient of the 1957 Rhodes Scholarship to Oriel College, Oxford where he received
a postgraduate degree in Politics, and returned to Jamaica in the early 1960s to take up a position at
UWI. At UWI he first came to attention as a co-author (with M. G. Smith and Roy Augier) of a
groundbreaking study of the Rastafari movement in 1961. In 1962 he founded the National Dance
Theatre Company of Jamaica, an ensemble which under his direction did much to incorporate
traditional Jamaican music and dance into a formal balletic repertoire.
For over twenty years, Nettleford has also been the artistic director for the University Singers of the
University of the West Indies, Mona campus in Jamaica. The combination of Nettleford as artistic director
and Noel Dexter as musical director with the University Singers has seen the creation of what is referred
to as "choral theatre".
Beginning with the collection of essays, Mirror, Mirror, published in 1969 and his editing and compiling of
the speeches and writings of Norman Manley, Manley and the New Jamaica, in 1971, Nettleford
established himself as a serious public historian and social critic. In 1968, he took over direction of the
School for Continuing Studies at the UWI and then of the Extra-Mural Department. In 1975, the Jamaican
state recognized his cultural and scholarly achievements by awarding him the Order of Merit. In 1996, he
became Vice-Chancellor of the UWI, and held that office until 2004, when he was succeeded by E. Nigel
Harris.
Contribution
Feb. 4, 1933-
Political Scientist who was the first alumnus of the UWI to become vice chancellor. Professor
Nettleford was the epitome of a true statesman and has shaped the cultural and intellectual
landscape of Jamaica as well as the wider Caribbean as a writer, dancer and trade unionist.In his
work, he has sought to emphasize the importance of cultural identity and has done much to persuade
Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean of the central place that culture ought to take.
Through dance, Professor Nettleford tried to preserve Jamaicas cultural heritage and in 1962 co-
founded the National Dance Theatre Company to extend his cultural vision. The dance company has
gained recognition for its well established repertoire of ballets, dance dramas among others. Central
to the success of the National Dance Theatre Company has been the contributions of renowned
choreographer Professor Rex Nettleford. Much of Professor Rex Nettlefords choreographed pieces
are an expression of African traditions which survived colonialism and slavery. Another of Professor
Nettlefords efforts to shape postcolonial culture is his involvement with trade unionism. He
forwarded the growth of trade unionism in the region. Through his instrumentality the trade union
institute was conceptualized and later became a model institute for the Caribbean and the rest of the
world.