Rohmearo McFarlane’s story

Rohmearo McFarlane
Rohmearo McFarlane (Photo credit: Veerle Poupeye)

When I first met Rohmearo McFarlane, he was a student at the Edna Manley College. He was a hardworking, intense, and dedicated student who was totally committed to his art and a friendly and kind-hearted individual. During our interactions in and around my classes, Romeo, as he is popularly known, spoke about his high school education at the Marcus Garvey Technical High School in St Ann and the bullying culture that prevailed there, as in many other high schools in the country. Being there however exposed him to art and technical drawing, which has continued to play a role in his artistic practice since then. He also spoke about moving around frequently as a youngster, because of family issues, and his efforts to create a sense of home amid this instability, by cultivating small flower gardens and holding on to personal items.

Rohmearo’s final year project, his so-called independent study, reflected on these personal experiences. The result was a room-sized installation that explored the questions of home and domesticity. Using his technical drawing skills, a life-size plan of the last house he lived in was drawn in the floor and floating above that were prints on transparent fabric, that referenced the sort of floral, decorative drapery that people use to turn their houses their homes and also included other images that referenced his house and personal history. The lack of solid materiality in the installation invoked the fleetingness of our lives, the importance of images and objects to our sense of self, and the sort of emotions that come with our attachment to home. It was a very personal and courageously gendered work, not only technically, because of the combination of traditionally male (technical drawing) and female imagery (the floral curtains), but also because domesticity is a subject with which male artists have only rarely engaged.

At the time of his final exams, Rohmearo was indeed a very promising young artist, twenty-three years old, with all the plans and hopes that come with being on the cusp of one’s adult professional life. When he left the Edna Manley College, after soldiering through an academic year that had been severely disrupted by the pandemic and the lockdown, his mind was on the mural projects he would be working on over the next few months, perhaps getting a teaching job at his high school alma mater, and the possibility of further MFA studies abroad.

On November 20, 2020 – ironically, the day before his cohort’s virtual graduation ceremony – Rohmearo travelled to Denham Town to scout the location for a private mural commission. He was going to meet up with another graduating student later but travelled with an assistant. His life was abruptly changed, however, when the taxi in which he was traveling became involved in a major shooting incident, in which the driver died, Rohmearo was seriously injured, and the other passenger was unharmed, at least physically.



The incident received some attention in the local print media, but the focus was on the death of the taxi driver, and the incident disappeared from the news cycle after a few days. Rohmearo, who was not named in any of the reports, was merely described as “injured but in stable condition.” There was outrage within the artistic community, most of it expressed on social media, but that too was short-lived. The shooting incident has been investigated by INDECOM, and the case is still without outcome, but it appears that Rohmearo was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Given the way in which his condition was described, it may have appeared that Rohmearo’s injuries were minor and inconsequential. Rohmearo was, however, hit directly by at least five bullets and several of his injuries were severe and life-altering. This included injuries to his abdomen, both arms, and his head, with several pieces of shrapnel lodged in his left eye. A year later, Rohmearo is still unable to move around without assistance, his eyesight is reduced, he does not have the full use of his arms, and he has a stoma attached to his intestinal tract – a far cry from the healthy, athletic 24-year-old he would have been, were it not for the shooting. The slow recovery and ongoing treatments and therapies are taking a tremendous toll on him and his family, also on a financial level, and he is unable to work and earn.

Rohmearo has already been through several rounds of corrective surgery, some of them overseas. More are required, such as the reversal of the stoma, and another major surgery is scheduled for late November. He needs our help and there is a GoFundMe campaign to assist with his most urgent medical expenses. You can find it at: I urge you to support him, so that he can get his health and life back on track and live up to his previous personal and professional promise. He deserves nothing less.

Dr Veerle Poupeye is an art historian specialized in art from the Caribbean. She lectures at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica, and works as an independent curator, writer, researcher, and cultural consultant. Her personal blog can be found at

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