MORANT BAY RESIDENTS SAY THE STATUE ERECTED IN MORANT BAY IS NOT WHAT PAUL BOGLE SHOULD LOOK LIKE
‘Give us the real Paul Bogle’ say Morant Bay residents
MONDAY, 15 MARCH 2010 23:53
Intense public resistance in Morant Bay, St Thomas, has forced the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) to call off remounting what many Jamaicans have always known as the Paul Bogle statue in that eastern Jamaica town.
The objection to the work of art is rooted in the residents’ claim, which has been corroborated by the JNHT, that the statue is not a true replica of the National Hero.
“When it was put up in 1965 no one said it was not a true image of Paul Bogle,” Dorette Abrahams, president of the African Heritage Development Association and public relations officer of the Parish Development Committee, told the Observer last Saturday. “In fact, the sign placed at the base of the statue said Paul Bogle. That really is a gross deception.”
Abrahams was among a large number of Morant Bay residents who, at a meeting with JNHT officials last November, voiced strong objection to the statue being remounted in the town.
The statue was damaged last year by a mentally ill man and was removed by the JNHT for restoration by sculptor Fitz Harrack, who said that he would replace the corroded steel at the base with brass. According to Harrack, salt air from the sea had contributed to the deterioration of the steel. He also said that the restoration should have been completed in time for National Heritage Week in October last year.
According to Abrahams, the residents want the Government to commission a statue of Bogle that would show his true facial features and illustrate what he stood for.
“The history of Paul Bogle tells us that he had an air of authority about him. He was over six feet tall and owned 500 acres of land. He was a man of means, who was one of the few Jamaicans who were eligible to vote,” said Abrahams.
She also said the fact that the statue’s back was turned to the courthouse suggested surrender and voiced opposition to the placement of the sword on the artwork.
“The top of the sword is up in his throat, symbolic of the cutting off of the power of speech,” said Abrahams. “The tip of the sword points to the scrotum, cutting off all of the regenerative capabilities, and in martial arts that means surrender. Bogle never surrendered.
The statue must face the courthouse, showing Bogle defending the rights of the common people.”
The controversial statue, which for years stood in front of the Morant Bay courthouse, was designed by the late sculptor Edna Manley, wife of National Hero Norman Manley. Erected in October 1965 and declared a national monument by the JNHT on April 3, 2003, the statue has always been regarded by many Jamaicans as a true image of Bogle who, in October 1865, led black Jamaicans in a march on the Morant Bay courthouse that triggered the now famous Morant Bay Rebellion.
However, on Saturday, Abrahams said she learnt that it was a man living in St Thomas, known only as ‘Mr Bagan’, who Edna Manley actually used as a model for the statue.
Abrahams’ point was supported by JNHT Chairman Patrick Staniger, who said he, too, found out that Manley used a model to build the piece.
However, Staniger saw the statue more as a symbolic representation of the ideals for which Bogle fought.
“It is a very effective monument representing his [Bogle’s] fight for freedom,” Staniger told the Observer. “It is a monument to the Morant Bay Rebellion.”
Historians say the rebellion grew out of the conviction of a black Jamaican for trespassing on a long abandoned plantation. The man was freed by the local population who had protested his conviction. However, on returning to their village of Stony Gut, the residents and Bogle learnt that warrants had been issued for the arrest of 27 men there for a number of offences, including rioting and assaulting the police.
Bogle, a Baptist deacon, led nearly 300 locals on the march to the courthouse where they were confronted by the militia which opened fire on them, killing seven of the protestors.
Bogle was later arrested and executed. He was eventually named a National Hero and his image appeared on the $2 note from 1969 until it was phased out, and has been on the 10-cent coin since 1991.
It is that image that the people of Morant Bay want to see on a statue of Bogle in their town.
“The Government has a picture of him at the Institute of Jamaica,” said Abrahams. “He’s on the money. We’re saying we’re willing to start another rebellion. We’re very, very passionate about it.”
Staniger agreed that the people of Morant Bay had a right to determine what the monument should look like. “We feel the community does have a right to speak; it is their town,” he told the Observer. “So we had a town meeting near the end of last year. It went pretty badly, as the people insisted that they want a statue that truly represents Paul Bogle.”
In response, the JNHT organised a small group and had two subsequent meetings with a few of the town’s leaders.
“We offered to work with them to get the Bogle statue built and placed in Stony Gut,” he said. “We felt it was an appropriate place to put Bogle the person as opposed to Bogle the monument, but the residents said no.”
Staniger said the JNHT is now thinking of placing the current statue in the National Gallery. However, that decision is the Cabinet’s to make.
In the meantime, a resolution supporting the residents’ position was passed by the St Thomas Parish Council on November 12 last year and supported by the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation last Tuesday.
The resolution urged Prime Minister Bruce Golding, Youth, Sports and Culture Minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, and the JNHT to commission a new statue with Bogle’s “true facial” features.
The resolution also called for a bust of Bogle to be commissioned and placed at his birthplace at Stony Gut.