Rex Nettleford was a well-known Caribbean Scholar, trade union educator, social and cultural historian, and political analyst. A former Rhodes Scholar, he was a Vice Chancellor Emeritus at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica. After taking an undergraduate degree in History at the UWI he pursued post-graduate studies in Politics at Oxford. He was also the founder, artistic director and principal choreographer of the internationally acclaimed National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica is regarded as a leading Caribbean authority in the performing arts.
Outside of the Caribbean he served on several international bodies having to do with development and intercultural learning. He was a founding governor of the Canada-based International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and International Trustee of the AFS Intercultural based in the USA and former Chairman of the Commonwealth Arts Organization. lie is a director of the London-based News Concern and a former member of the Executive Board of UNESCO. He served as one of the Group of Experts (IU) monitoring the Implementation of Sanctions and other Actions against Apartheid and as member of the West Indian Commission and was a member of the Castles and Fort Trust Fund — Ghana (Central Region). He is a member of the UN Working Group on African Descent of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
He served as a consultant on cultural development to UNESCO and OAS and Cultural Advisor to the Government of Jamaica and was Rapporteur of the International Scientific Committee of UNESCO’s Slave Route Project as well as Regional Coordinator for the Caribbean and later the Chairman of the restructured, revitalized Project Committee for Unesco. As an authority on development and cultural dynamics, he lectured in many countries of the world including the USA, Canada, UK, India, Israel and South Africa. He headed the National Council on Education and has served on numerous other commissions in his native Jamaica. He introduced into UWI in 1996 the Cultural Studies Initiative which has attracted postgraduate research on all three campuses.
He was editor of Caribbean Quarterly and the author of “The Rastafarians in Kingston, Jamaica” (with F R Augier and M G Smith); “Mirror, Mirror: Identity, Race and Protest in Jamaica”; “Manley and the New Jamaica”; “Roots and Rhythms”; “Caribbean Cultural Identity” ; “Dance Jamaica: Self-Definition and Artistic Discovery”; “Dance Jamaica: Renewal and Continuity”; “The University of the West Indies: A Caribbean Response to the Challenge of Change” (with Sir Philip Sherlock); and “Inward Stretch, Outward Reach: A Voice from the Caribbean”.
He edited in 1992 a collection of essays entitled “Jamaica in Independence: The Early Years” and has co-edited (with Vera Hyatt) “Race, Discourse and the Origins of the Americas” a publication for the Smithsonian Institution. He has numerous articles published in scholarly journals and was also the author major national reports on Cultural Policy, Worker Participation, Reform of Government Structure in Jamaica and National Symbols and National Observances and Local Government Reform in Jamaica.
He was the recipient of the high national honour of Order of Merit, the Gold Musgrave Medal (front the Institute of Jamaica), the Living Legend Award (Black Arts Festival, Atlanta, USA), the Pelican Award (of the UWl Guild of Graduates), the Zora Neale Hurston-Paul Robeson Award (from the National Council for Black Studies, USA), the Pinnacle Award from the National Coalition on Caribbean Affairs (NCOCA), the Second Annual Honor Award from the Jamaican-American Chamber of Commerce in 1999, and was made a Fellow of the Institute of Jamaica in 1991. In 2003, the Rhodes Trust of Oxford established the Rex Nettleford Prize in Cultural Studies and the Government of Jamaica made him an Ambassador-at-large/Special Envoy the following year. He is a Distinguished Fellow in the UWI School of Graduate Studies and a Honorary (Life) Fellow of the Centre for Caribbean Thought. He was made in 2004 an Officer in the Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French government and received the Pablo Neruda Centenary Medal from the Government of Chile. He is, as well, the recipient of CARICOM’s highest award — the Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC).