Watson in the running
Sculptor shortlisted for Windrush monumentMonday, May 03, 2021
BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Renowned Jamaican sculptor Basil Watson could possibly be creating another work of international proportions.
Watson has just been shortlisted by the Windrush Commemoration Committee in the United Kingdom to be considered to create a monument to celebrate the Windrush Generation — people from the Caribbean who migrated to the UK between 1948 and 1971 — and their descendants, which will be erected in London's Waterloo Station.
Watson is among four artists who have made the shortlist. The three others are Valda Jackson, Jeannette Ehlers, and Thomas J Price.
The sculptor has been making an even greater name locally and internationally in recent times, having designed and created monuments to decorated athletes Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Veronica Campbell and Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, and folklorist Miss Lou [Louise Bennett Coverley], as well as American civil rights leader the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
Speaking to the Jamaica Observer, Watson expressed delight and honour at being among those shortlisted for this project.
“I feel like I'm already a winner by just being shortlisted. It is such an honour to be considered when one examines the importance of this project to the UK. And when I think of the place of honour my work could end up if chosen... Waterloo Station. I am so honoured and grateful,” he said.
Watson, who now resides in Altanta in the United States, recalled the trepidation and internal conversations he had in making the move to the US, but noted that he is now reaping the benefits of the decision.
“The truth is it was not so much a starting over when I moved to Atlanta at age 44, as all the things I was doing in Jamaica really helped me, and my career was on an upward trajectory. I was gaining recognition and all of that helped me once I got here. I, however, do recognise how much I have developed artistically and personally since I moved here. It has been like climbing steps, so what I am experiencing now would not have been possible without the Jamaican experience,” he shared.
The sculptor was also keen to mention his personal ties to the Windrush Generation.
“My father [master painter the late Barrington Watson] was part of the Windrush Generation. He left Jamaica for England in 1951. In fact, he and my mother met on the boat to England and were married shortly afterwards. My brother was born a few years later in England. While I was conceived there, my mother chose to return to Jamaica where I was born. We then returned to England in 1958, where we lived until 1962 when the family came back to Jamaica, heeding the call to help build the newly independent nation,” Watson shared.
He recently gained acclaim in the US when he was commissioned to create the monument to Dr King. The 12-foot tall bronze work titled Hope Moving Forward was unveiled in January of this year, and stands at the intersection of Northside Drive and Dr Martin Luther King Jr Drive in Atlanta.
Again, Watson noted that there is a personal connection to King and his family. “The irony is that my father also created a piece dedicated to Dr King. My father lived in Atlanta and taught at Spelman College for a number of years. In 1969, after Dr King's assassination, he did a portrait of Dr King. That is currently part of the Spelman collection. I had the opportunity to view it a few years ago. So again, I was connected by history when asked to create that monument,” said Watson.
He is still mulling over the concept for his interpretation for the Windrush monument at this time.
“I'm still working it out. There are so many thoughts going through my head as I do the research. I have another one or two months before I have to submit my concept to the committee, which will then put this to a wider body for feedback and an ultimate decision. Until then I am working it out,” Watson told the Observer.
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