KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Jamaican scholar and choreographer Rex Nettleford has died following a heart attack in the United States. He was 76.
Nettleford died late Tuesday in Washington D.C., where he was attending a fundraiser for the University of the West Indies. He had been hospitalized since suffering a heart attack last week at his hotel room, Jamaican Culture Minister Olivia Grange said.
Nettleford, a Rhodes scholar, co-founded the National Dance Theater Company a month after Jamaica gained independence from Britain. He led the organization for almost 50 years.
"Jamaica and the entire world have lost an intellectual and creative genius," Prime Minister Bruce Golding said. “Rex Nettleford was an international icon, a quintessential Caribbean man, the professor, writer, dancer, manager, orator, critic and mentor."
Nettleford, who was born in rural Trelawny parish in February 1933, long called for positive portrayals of Jamaica's black majority.
His 1969 book, Mirror Mirror, examined the status of black Jamaicans nearly 10 years after the island became independent.
Nettleford was vice chancellor emeritus of the University of the West Indies from 1997 to 2004 and served as cultural adviser to three prime ministers, including Golding.
Former Jamaica Prime Minister Edward Seaga praised Nettleford's passion for regional art and folklore.
"He had a willingness to absorb Jamaican culture," Seaga said.
Photo: Rex Nettleford