Sun | Jan 29, 2023

That unacceptable statue of Paul Bogle

Published:Thursday | March 25, 2010 | 12:00 AM

On Saturday, C. F. Robinson in a letter to the editor agreed with those who believe in the "inadequacy of the statue of Paul Bogle" as an acceptable portrayal of the national hero. The writer believes that "the half-naked, wild-eyed man in the rumpled old trousers sends the wrong message". and advocated for "a heroic, self-sacrificing, authentic alternative". This person seems to desire a physical rather than an intellectual replica of Bogle.

A similar problem arose with the erection of the Christopher Gonzalez's sculpture of Bob Marley which was rejected.However, whereas most people knew Bob Marley not many persons alive knew Bogle and there are not many descriptions of Bogle in historical records.In my recently launched book, The Cross and the Machete, I have tried to outline a sketch of Bogle.Bogle was said to be "a very black man, with shining skin, bearing heavy marks of smallpox on his face, and more especially on his nose; teeth good, large mouth with red thick lips; about five feet eight inches in height, broad across the shoulders, carries himself indolently, and has no whiskers". Colonial Standard October 18, 1865.

This description would be accurate because it was given in order that Bogle could be captured for the reward of the princely sum of two thousand pounds.I believe that some who are clamouring for a different statue would not want a statue with those features.

I have heard it said that the statue makes Bogle look too black!

Furthermore, it should be realised that even a physical description is an interpretation by the author. How wide is 'large mouth' and 'broad across the shoulders'? It still has to be estimated.And what depth melanin is 'very black'? The description is not totally objective because it uses emotive language in places such as "heavy marks of smallpox on his face" and walking with a swagger.

Wonderful interpretation

Perhaps the objectors to the statue would like a sculpture resembling the photograph which is in the National Library.However, even photographs are interpretations.One person can be captured by a photographer as playful or prayerful. Also depending on the angle of the picture and the mood of the person, different features are displayed. Pictures are interpretations.

Similarly, Edna Manley's sculpture is an interpretation and a wonderful interpretation.Edna Manley, daughter of a Methodist missionary, perceived Bogle as a Christian martyr in 1965 when many Jamaicans did not see him as a Christian much less a Christian hero.Manley was saying that Bogle sacrificed his life for his suffering people.The prevailing view was that Bogle was a rabble-rouser and violent rebel and for Edna Manley to evoke comparisons with Jesus on the cross was revolutionary and inspired.So impressed was I with the statue, that I asked Ian Randle Publishers to put the picture of that statue on the cover of the book, The Cross and the Machete, which thankfully they did.

No problem

And before others judge the statue, let us try and understand what was meant by Edna Manley's intellectual representation of Bogle. Persons should talk with P.J. Patterson, former prime minister; Dr David Boxer, leading art historian, and the Rev Easton Lee, family friend, all of whom have intimate knowledge of the process. However, this is not to say that persons cannot have their objections but at least we could understand the interpretation Edna Manley was bringing to the work.

Before we go changing the statue, let us also remember that there was much ado about the Laura Facey's Emancipation statue and now it is no problem. As for me, I think the Manley-sculpted Bogle statue is a masterpiece and I would love for it to be restored and returned to its fitting Morant Bay location.

Devon Dick is pastor of Boulevard Baptist Church and author of 'The Cross and the Machete: Native Baptists of Jamaica - Identity, Ministry and Legacy'. Feedback may be sent to

Devon Dick