With his playful cartoon style, Wilfred Limonious (b.1949) created a perfect visual counterpart for reggae’s dancehall sound. He was raised in the small rural town of Albert Town, Jamaica and moved to Kingston at the age of eighteen to study graphic design at the nation’s premier art school. While plugging away at his formal education, the keen young cartoonist began submitting single-framed cartoons to the daily Jamaica Star newspaper’s local-flavoured cartoon section. Eventually, Limonious’s “Chicken” strip was moved into regular rotation with the paper’s American and British syndicated strips, and quickly became a fan-favourite.
After a few paid gigs with advertising agencies and book publishers Limonious received a scholarship and moved to England for a brief stint at a technical college in Romford, Essex. Upon his return to Jamaica he was greeted with an opportunity to design album jackets for the country’s newly emerging dancehall genre, his first commissions coming from Neville Lee’s Sonic Sounds record label. Realising that he had struck gold, Lee initially kept the artist’s identity a secret, and for a time Limonious album covers were exclusive to Sonic Sounds. However, word soon got out and before long Limonious was working with a slew of different labels: Black Solidarity, Powerhouse, Techniques, Midnight Rock, Ujama, Jammy’s, Dennis Star and Studio One to name a few.
While not the first visual artist to marry comic strip aesthetic with dancehall’s playful personality, Limonious’s oeuvre is arguably the genre’s most voluminous, succinct and certainly its most outrageous.
Wilfred Limonious passed away in a Kingston hospital on 27 December 1999, but not without leaving a legacy of genre-defining and hilarious album jackets.
Text courtesy of Christopher Bateman, wilfredlimonious.com