From Jamaica to Galway for Artiste Bam

By Stephen Holland

“MY life started as a kind of quandary. A question mark. Who am I? As it turns out I am an artist”.

These are the words of Bam, the self- styled Artist Artiste; some of you may recognise him selling his paintings or playing music around the City.

Bam originally comes from Jamaica but for the past 20 years he has called Ireland home.

“I was born on a Tuesday at two o’clock. That’s what my mom says. It was raining too, so I was destined to come to Ireland,” he says with a wry smile.

After living in many different countries Bam ended up in Galway and decided to stay as, “it’s an excellent place and seems to be the kind of place that germinates a good artist”.

“Ireland overall is a creative nation, a creative race of people. But in some areas, there is a greater influence of creativity and Galway is one of those places.

“There is no part of Ireland you won’t find creativity, but Galway has been hailed for its strong artistic influence. Cork too. Even look at Limerick, that’s the name of type a poem,” he adds animatedly.

Growing up, Bam was always creative, but says when he was born in 1971 in rural Jamaica this was not unusual, that the atmosphere at the time was just very artistic.

“You grew up very creative in spirit, but no one named it that. I grew up in the Bob Marley era so when you
go abroad people go, ‘Oh look at that creative guy!’ That was the first time

I was hearing we were creative. I was like ‘What? We are creative? I can make money from this?’” he laughs.

“Imagine my amazement when I got to Galway and found out the place was so artistic with art-type people who know that’s what they are, not like me who grew up not knowing”.

Bam is highly devoted to his art, this can be seen most clearly in his daily routine which involves rising early, no matter what, to paint.

“I wake up at five every single day. I do not observe religious days. I do not observe holidays, birthdays, or any of those things. I don’t take rest,” he says.

“The first part of business is to criticise why I’m getting up. I still complain in my head. Why am I getting up? By six o’clock I know why I am doing this. All the gods are speaking to me. It’s the best time of my day”.

Financially the pandemic has been tough for Bam and this has forced him to think outside of the box and he now paints exclusively using internal house paint which he says is a lot cheaper than the acrylic or oil paints most artists are using.

“I found myself on deathground. I am the guy who has gone out and somebody has burned the harbour and I cannot return and there’s no sight of land in front of me.

“The only thing to do is battle the sharks. That’s where I am now in the pandemic,” he says.

“That forced me to think extremely creatively and only use DIY paints. O’Toole’s are the only ones I get paint from. They’re in Eyre Square and these guys helped me out, giving me good deals when I don’t have much money, they make sure I keep painting”.

Before the pandemic Bam used to travel all over Ireland busking playing jazz and blues music. However, the restrictions forced him to stop and now he focuses primarily on painting.

“The pandemic has allowed me to pivot. One must change if one is clever. IhavepivotedtoartsoIcanbettersuit whatever changes are approaching. One must never go freely into the dark night, not willing, and I will put up a fight to the dying end,” he says.

“No one rises alone, everyone rises by the help of somebody. There’s no such thing as a self made man. It takes a village, I fully believe that.”

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