Athletes, cash and statuesThursday, October 20, 2016
I am proud suh tell of our track and field athletes who have brought such honour to us. I would not, could not begrudge them one iota of the national pride which they have evoked in us. Now that we are beginning to put a price on the financial rewards which have been bestowed on them, it could be interpreted that I have ‘bad mind’ for wondering aloud if money is really the best way of rewarding their skill and talent.
It is not the first time, of course, that athletes have taken home their reward in cash. Some people do not facilitate questioning of money. I can hear people saying: "Competition is hard work, and why shouldn’t the champions get recompense?"
This is highly recommended, especially as most of our athletes do not come from "silver spoon" environments. Why shouldn’t they get reward in a manner which could ensure a better life for them? I wonder, though, for how long does money last, even though it can be "stretched" through investment and professional management?
Stand up ‘gainst statue
Meanwhile, we have come to another ‘place of argument’. It is about the plan to create and erect in public places statues of the successful athletes of the Rio Olympics. Comments based on mixed feelings are on the agenda of public discussion. Some people are for it, some are balancing on the fence. There is no inkling of over what period of time will it take to achieve the statue display. Sculpting is not an easy task. The technical dynamics are not unknown to us. Over the years, some Jamaican master artists have shown that they know their stuff.
One challenge which has dogged nearly every sculptor, however, is differing public tastes. An artist’s representation might be, to him or her, a task well done, an accomplishment achieved, but at the same time, onlookers can "dismiss" the finished product. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," the purists said in literature. What Person ‘A’ sees and showers with praise, Person ‘B’ treats with scorn and outrage. Have we forgotten how we engaged in public rejection of the Bob Marley statue, created by the late, revered Christopher Gonzalez, who did an abstract image of the great singer prophet Bob Marley?
Some of us (myself included) sang the praises of the work, the head thrown back in adoration, the locks emphasising Jah Rastafari, the hair flashing the rod of the prophet growing out of the root of a tree. It was imagination and adoration as far as I was concerned.
The very man who had engaged the artist — Edward Seaga
— rejected the work, humiliated it. Soldiers were summoned to bind the image of the prophet with ropes and drag it unceremoniously from public view. "It neva favah Bob," the people cried. It stopped just short of people crying "Crucify!"
Another version stands now in the Marley place of honour, still opposite the National Arena. Christopher Gonzalez was never quite the same again (in my opinion). He passed his last days on the north coast, still creating to the end. Meanwhile, the original Gonzalez work "boxed bout"; at one time on display in Ocho Rios, at other times "hanging around the doorway" of the National Gallery. I couldn’t tell you if it is still there. I couldn’t bear to look at it.
Christopher Gonzalez was my friend. He and his talent deserved respect. Other public statues in their time have been subject to controversy also.
The Paul Bogle statue in Morant Bay has had its share of rejection. When it first went up, there were questions of "Why it so black?" Since then, there have been other differences of opinion with varying reactions. The last time I visited Morant Bay, Bogle’s statue was nowhere in sight, for whatever reason. I never found out. We have made much of Paul Bogle in Heroes’ Day celebrations, but exactly how do we rate him? What did his statue do anybody?
Here’s another case: One time, Sir Alexander Bustamante did not take kindly to the statue of a male and a female wrapped in each other’s arms which was put on top of a roof at the Papine-located property of the late A D Scott, noted architect and art connoisseur. Along with his instruction of banishment, the chief declared the lovers should never be displayed within immediate distance of the roadway. Busta died, Scott died, and the loving couple is still around.
So, back to the proposed statues of our new athletic stars. Who will create? And what will the responses be? I can’t help but cringe at something I overheard — that the subjects would be permitted to give their final assent to the finish. "Fi true?" What of the sculptor’s view? How will that work out this time, but what will happen if and when the subjects say they don’t like how they look? More Jamdown excitement?
How often do you see a statue that looks exactly like the subject? What will be the reaction this time around?
Hall of fame
Question: Why not use the money and the effort to revive the sports hall of fame, which has been promised since 1989? "True wud!" Look it up in the Archives.
From research recently, I found reference that there actually was a hall of fame opened in 1989 and in which sporting giants of the day — Herb McKenley, Arthur Wint, George Rhoden, George Headley, Alfred Valentine and Herbert MacDonald — were inducted and placed on the records as the first to be so honoured. So, where is it now, the sports hall of fame?
The report which I read recently concluded with the words: "The hope is that only the very best will be paraded in the hall of fame, so that it will one day become a national monument, a source of inspiration — the pride and joy of the Jamaican people." So where is it?
Shouldn’t this be the goal which we should aim at, even one more time, especially as it was noted that "The Hall of Fame will also serve to educate the young and praise those who deserve praise, to light the torch for those with the talent, the dream, the dedication and the discipline to follow in the steps of the champions." Who is listening?
How many awards?
Almost every year you can hear it said: Why should so many get national awards? How many is "how many"? The headcount this year is 200, according to statistics from the Office of the Prime Minister. I have no record of how many were recognised the year before this or any other year before. The King’s House grounds, where the investiture and awards event took place, did give the impression however that a "whole heapa people" were there; as a result of which the programme seemed to go on extremely long in the sweltering heat. It cannot continue that way all the time. The ritual needs reviewing.
There is nothing wrong with recognition of people who have made significant contributions to the development of their nation. Yes, many actually do. Not every one is perfect, but give thanks when we can find enough people who make an effort and succeed in creating a difference. Nutten wrong wid dat. Mek we do even better next time.
Congratulations to the hard-working sincere ‘heroes’.
Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Obsever or
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