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LETTER OF THE DAY - 'Tuku tuku' dispute over statue

Published:Tuesday | March 30, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

Professor Carolyn Cooper has added the weight of her considerable intellect to the small, curious struggle to replace the old statue of Paul Bogle with a new one, ostensibly one that looks more like him. Professor Cooper may well have diminished her own usually high standards by her effort in that regard.

'Tuku tuku' is how she describes the discredited statue erected in 1965. And she joins with it Laura Facey-Cooper's statue at the entrance of Emancipation Park in the verdict "dat fi bruck up and dash weh". What is most curious is to know exactly what is so objectionable about the interpretation given by both artist and public historian, Edna Manley and Laura Facey-Cooper?

In the case of the Morant Bay monument, according to Professor Cooper, it is its height and I suppose bearing. Tuku tuku, she tells us, means short, small, stocky. In the case of the Emancipation Park monument, the objection is that they are monstrous figures.

The question is, what does size have to do with it? It seems to that the size of victory is not diminished by the lack of height or bearing of the warrior. I had also thought that precisely what both monuments do is to express faith in the capacity of the ordinary Jamaican. Up you mighty race, you can accomplish what you will. It might disappoint some to discover that there is no surviving photograph of Paul Bogle; they are artistic impressions. What the monument in Morant Bay does, it seems to me, is to become public record in celebration of the ordinariness of the people who accomplished extraordinary victory through their martyrdom in 1865.

Ordinary Jamaican

The Paul Bogle depicted there is a representative of the ordinary Jamaican at that time. The Emancipation monument is an expression of faith in the future of our people, made larger than life by their emancipation, and that has led us to the point where the sky is the limit: we can be victorious in the war with ourselves, if we can emancipate ourselves from mental slavery.

The point is that we need not choose between the interpretation of Edna Manley and Laura Facey-Cooper, on the one hand, or Garnett Roper or Carolyn Cooper on the other. The history of this country and the challenge of telling our own story, which is both complex and compelling, has room enough to contain all of us. Let us not seek to replace, but to exceed. We do not have to denigrate the work of one sculptor or artist in order to celebrate the work of another.

I am, etc.,

GARNETT ROPER

Jamaica Theological Seminary