Sun | Oct 24, 2021

That's not Paul Bogle, move it!

Published:Friday | June 19, 2015 | 3:37 PMPaul H. Williams
Edna Manley's artistic impression of Paul Bogle, as modelled by Phillip 'Bagan' Bogle.
Secretary of the St Thomas Parish Development Committee, Dorette Abrahams, (left), wants a new statue of Paul Bogle. But Patricia Bogle, wife of the man from whose image Edna Manley modelled the current statue, said a new statue wouldn’t make sense.

In 1965, some 100 years after the Morant Bay Rebellion, a statue sculpted by Edna Manley was mounted in front of the St Thomas parish capital's couthouse.

Affixed to the mount was a name plaque with 'Paul Bogle' etched into it.

Paul Bogle was one of the leaders of the uprising. He was hanged from the burnt-out courthouse on October 24, 1865, as a "rebel and devil incarnate".

From the moment the statue was unveiled, some in St Thomas have been calling for its removal. The statue is not that of the popular freedom fighter turned national hero. It is an image of Philip 'Bagan' Bogle, said to be a descendant of Paul Bogle, by way of his daughter, Cecelia.

The controversy reached fever pitch in 2007. There were discussions and petitions, and a decision was made to put a notice above the name plaque to read: "An artistic impression of Paul Bogle". That erratum was mysteriously removed some time ago, according to Dorrette Abrahams, secretary of the St Thomas Parish Development Committee, and one of the strong voices against the use of Bagan's image to represent Paul Bogle.

One of the arguments for the use of Bagan's image was that there was no picture of Paul Bogle in 1965 when Edward Seaga, then minister of development and welfare, commissioned Edna Manley to sculpt a statue of Bogle.

Bagan presented himself

Manley wanted someone to represent the spirit of Bogle, to pose as Bogle, and she went in search of a Bogle - so the story goes. Bagan was the only one who presented himself as a Bogle, since the Bogle name was much maligned after he was hanged.

Philip Bogle, the farmer, posed for Manley.

Apart from differing physical features of both men, there were also variances in their social standings, Bogle being a landed, well-to-do deacon of much influence, and Bagan a regular peasant.

Ainsley Henriques, chairman of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, told The Gleaner earlier this year, "The statue was an impressionist statue by Edna Manley to show the strength of Paul Bogle and his commitment, which is why it looks like a cross."

"I cannot tell you that I can sit here and see that the quality of the interpretation of Paul Bogle's strength as a martyr for social justice, that Edna Manley created, should be relegated to somewhere else ... Edna Manley's interpretation of Paul Bogle's strength, his commitment, his sacrifice is embodied in Edna Manley's statue of Paul Bogle," Henriques further said.

The statue of Bagan then, it seems, is an injustice to the stature and memory of Paul Bogle.

"This (Paul Bogle), is somebody, as black people, that we can take our children to say, 'this is somebody we can aspire to be like'. "Therefore, the statue must depict the man," Abrahams argued.

She believes the statue of Bagan is misrepresenting of Paul Bogle and the whole thing is a "deception".

Now that plans are in place to restore the courthouse that was burned down again in February 2007, some people are getting agitated anew as the statue will be remounted. They believe it should be mounted at Stony Gut, near to Bagan's grave in the Paul Bogle Memorial Park, and a new monument, reflecting the story of Paul Bogle, and the Morant Bay uprising, erected in front of the restored courthouse.

Another person in favour of the remounting of the statue at Morant Bay is Philip Bogle's wife, Patricia. She is very much aware of the controversy, and spoke at length about it, and about how her late husband got to model as Paul Bogle.

"I don't think that would be right, and many other people speak about it ... I don't think they should put it at Stony Gut. It used to be out here, so they should put it back out here," Bogle told The Gleaner while standing at the back of the burnt-out courthouse.

cause for confusion

She believes there would be confusion if a different statue is mounted, since many people are already familiar with the current one.

"It wouldn't make sense to me, it would be like sending the fool a little farther," she quipped.

Abrahams, who said she was speaking on behalf of the people of St Thomas, said a decision was made, in 2007-2008, not to return the statue to Morant Bay, and that work has already started on a Paul Bogle Monument, on the request of the St Thomas Parish Development Committee, and money is needed to have it completed.

"I have been told that the Government said there is no money to build another statue, so we have to build our own statue. With that in mind, the Parish Development Committee ... who represents the people of St Thomas, we have asked a sculptor to do a statue that would depict Paul Bogle and the martyrs of the Morant Bay uprising," Abrahams said.