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No disrespect meant - Sculptor Raymond Watson upset that people are angry over his bust of Marcus Garvey

Published:Monday | June 12, 2017 | 12:00 AMPaul H. Williams
Raymond Watson.
Raymond Watson’s bust of Marcus Garvey.

Some persons were stunned and angry when they saw the bust of National Hero Marcus Garvey unveiled in the courtyard of the Faculty of Humanities and Education on the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies on Friday, May 19.

The tenor of the online and mass media feedback was very negative, brutal even. Some readers had absolutely no mercy on the university and the sculptor Raymond Watson, who were widely condemned in words ranging from the 'ridiculous', to 'sarcastic', to 'threatening'.

The general opinion is that the bust looks nothing like Marcus Garvey, and, thus, does not represent him, his worth and work. In essence, Watson did not do justice to Garvey's legacy, many people are saying, and they considered it a disrespect for, and dishonour to, the hero.

The Gleaner caught up with Watson exactly one week after his piece, done in bronze resin and stone powder, was revealed. He was at an exhibition where his 1997 piece called Gruimi Player, also done in bronze resin, and mounted on mahogany, was on display.

He was visibly perturbed by the bitter responses. In fact, he was aware of them from the moment they started. He was at the unveiling.

"Somebody has an opinion about any image, I can't argue with what they see and don't see," he said.

But Watson could not fathom why people were upset, and he said he was upset that they were.

"I don't understand how people get to that kind of conclusion, honest to God. I did a representation of Garvey that I saw in the photograph. I thought I have done justice, now with the feedback maybe I didn't do justice. If I messed up, I messed up, but it wasn't an intentional disrespect or anything," he said.

... Artist reserves right to represent subject in own way - Watson

Sculptor Raymond Watson intimated that an artist reserves the right to represent his subject in his own way. That is what art is about, the Edna Manley College art educator said.

But should an artist not take into consideration the sentiments and sensibilities of the masses so as not to offend them? He was asked. "But it is not disregarding the sentiments of the masses," he said, it is about how the artist feels.

Watson came under very strong criticism for his sculpture of National Hero Marcus Garvey, which was unveiled at the University of the West Indies last month.

Several persons said this, his latest work, was "rough" and bears no resemblance to Garvey. He shared with The Gleaner that he did the bust from a picture of a slimmer Garvey sitting in a chair. However, where he got that photo from seems to be a million-dollar question.

There is a widespread call for the bust to be removed and replaced with one that the masses can relate to. Garvey's rotund, powerful visage is all persons say they are asking for. Watson said he has no control over what the university does with the bust, but he would definitely be "upset" if it should remove his art.

When asked to give a summary of his feelings about the controversy, he said, "I am disappointed that I have disappointed so many people. That was not my intention, but I really don't see what is there in the thing to offend, or to offend the memories of Marcus. ... I don't know."