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UWI unveils controversial Garvey bust

Published:Tuesday | May 23, 2017 | 2:09 PMPaul H. Williams
Raymond Watson’s sculpted representation of the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey.
Professor Archibald McDonald, principal of the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies, and Professor Rahamon Adisa Bello of The University of Lagos, Nigeria, unveil the bust of Marcus Garvey in the courtyard of the Faculty of Humanities and Education at the UWI Mona campus last Friday.

Last Friday, Professor Archibald McDonald, pro-vice-chancellor and principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona campus, and Professor Rahamon Adisa Bello, vice-chancellor of the University of Lagos in Nigeria, unveiled a bust of the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey in the courtyard of the Faculty of Humanities and Education at Mona.

Professor Waibinte Wariboko, dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education, in welcoming the gathering, said, "As a faculty dedicated to the study of human civilisations, we thought it befitting to erect this bust in our learning environment to constantly visually remind ourselves of the central place he occupies in our social consciousness."

Professor Wariboko, a historian and native of Nigeria, conceptualised the idea of mounting a bust of Garvey on the Mona campus.

He said he was encouraged and assisted by students from the Marcus Garvey Movement, Club Africa, and the History and Archaeological Society - three student organisations on the Mona Campus. He commented that the project was long overdue, and now that it is a reality, "it will strengthen scholarship relating to black nationalism, Garveyism and Pan-Africanism".


But after the bust was exposed, many people, including some UWI staffers, appeared stunned by sculptor Raymond Watson's representation of Garvey.

"Dat a nuh Garvey!" was the general remarks from onlookers.

"Tek it dung," one woman said calmly.

"That statue does not represent Marcus Garvey - that's a fraud," pronounced an elderly Rasta, donning the colours of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). With photos of Garvey, and sometimes using expletives, he ranted until way after the formalities were over.

The negative feedback led Professor Rupert Lewis, to comment on the onlookers' ire, in his reflections on the life and work of Marcus Mosiah Garvey.

"I know there will be a lot of discussion, I heard some, about the image of Garvey. But there is no one image of him. There are many images of Garvey that you can get from his 52 years. So, I respect our artists when they present something new that we can reflect on, which will be different from the images to which we have been accustomed. So, congratulations to our artist Raymond Watson," Professor Lewis said.

On the matter of the influence of the UNIA in Africa Professor Lewis wondered whether people are using the technologies available to them to forge links with African countries. He said he is hoping that "the bust of Garvey will be an incentive to us to make a path to the Motherland and put our house in order".

... Garvey's work and ideas still relevant

In a message on his behalf and that of Professor Hilary Beckles, vice chancellor of The University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr Richard Vernal, pro-vice-chancellor for global affairs, said the mounting of the bust of the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey on the Mona campus was appropriate because of the contribution of Garvey's work and ideas, which are still relevant because people in Jamaica are still bleaching, and because Garvey was one of the first people to call for a university to be established in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

"It is symbolic of our past struggles, it is symbolic of our working together as Africans at home and abroad for a better future for all people of African descent," Dr Vernal also said.

Prior to the unveiling of the statue done by sculptor Raymond Watson, Professor Archibald McDonald, pro-vice-chancellor and principal of UWI, said it was a significant moment to honour the "prophet" from home. He referred to Garvey as a global and anti-colonial champion, Pan-Africanist extraordinaire, who had inspired "every" major black movement and president in Africa and the Americas. The project he said was supported by the UWI administration, which is proud to acknowledge Garvey's influence and long legacy.

"In supporting the realisation of this monument to be unveiled, it is our hope that students, faculty members, and visitors to the campus will see a vision of self, one of greatness that breaks the mental and physical chains of oppression that try to tell us that we are anything but worthy and proud," Professor McDonald said.

Among the persons in attendance at last Friday's unveiling were former principal of the Mona campus and former governor general, Sir Kenneth Hall; UWI officials and educators; a delegation from Nigeria; past and present students; members of the Rastafarian community; former prime minister Bruce Golding and his son, Stephen; president of the Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica, and popular Garveyite, Queen Mother Miriamne Samad.