Hundreds of residents, Government officials and visitors crammed Gordon Town square in St Andrew East Rural Friday evening to witness the historic unveiling of a statue of Jamaica’s cultural icon, Louise “Miss Lou” Bennett Coverley.
The statue now sits in the vicinity of the police station and the courthouse, close to where she spent most of her life as an integral and influential member of the community before she emigrated to Toronto, Canada.
The life-size bronze depiction was created by Basil Watson and unveiled by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on the occasion of the icon’s 99th birthday.
In the build-up to the unveiling, children clad in their school uniforms, some of whom were brought by their parents in an attempt to expose them to the rich culture that was on display, stood behind the barriers with bated breaths as they listened to festival songs.
Louise Simone Bennett Coverley’s legacy was felt in the community as students of the neighbouring Louise Bennett Coverley Primary School, Mona Preparatory and Ana Strachan, among others, recited poems and sang folk songs during the ceremony.
Young and old, who could not conceal the fulfilment of their wish to have a statue of the Jamaican poet and activist installed in their community, expressed a feeling of deep satisfaction.
Peter Clarke, who has been living in the Gordon Town community for 50 years, told the Jamaica Observer that it was long time coming.
“We have always recognised, nationally, that Miss Lou is an icon. We have recognised that she is a cultural, probably the brightest cultural spark and this occasion is the manifestation of that recognition. As a Gordon Towner, I am absolutely proud that they have selected the town itself to put the statue. There were a lot of questions about whether it would really work here. Clearly it can and it can only bring more recognition to our small community,” Clarke said.
At the same time, Clarke, who is also a justice of the peace, said the installation of the statue will also pave the way for economic development.
“The fact is that people will be coming here just to see this statue and to take a picture just like how they go to Bob Marley statue down by the National Stadium. So improving the environment and the environs will then make the whole package a whole lot more attractive. That means that the word will get out and more and more people will come and they will all want service — even a soft drink, a patty, whatever it is,” Clarke explained.
Ishiwawa Hope, who was accompanied by her children, said she wanted them to get a first-hand experience of Jamaica’s culture.
“We love our Jamaican culture and we are very pleased that what is being done for Miss Lou. I met Miss Lou personally and I really like the fact that they’re recognising her in Gordon Town because our culture is very important, our culture is worldwide, and it’s just really a wonderful thing that our Government is doing for our country in honouring the mother of our Jamaican language, our Jamaican skits, all the things that you see like festivals and pantomime … Miss Lou is responsible for that, so it is really an honour for her and our culture at large,” Hope reasoned.
According to shop operator and resident Everton Rider, the community regrets the level of attention that was given to the area prior to the installation of the statue.
However, Rider said he’s anticipating next year’s celebration. “We were disappointed before because they took it away from us and gone keep it all over Jamaica, so now that it come to Gordon Town … her resting place … it’s a good thing for us. It will bring tourism to the community,” Rider said as he tended to customers.
Welcoming the announcement that the area will be transformed to Miss Lou Square over the next few months, Tracy Gordon, who has been living in the community since 1998, said the development will generate economic benefits.
At the same time, the mother, whose son attends the Louise Bennett Coverley Primary School, argued that the area should have been developed a long time ago. However, Gordon said she’s pleased with the latest development.
According to Custos of St Andrew Marigold Harding, the initiative to install the statue to commemorate the iconic story teller was expressed by the Gordon Town Community Council on August 12, 2012.
Harding said that the resolution was supported by 320 people representing the wider community. She said that having been granted permission by her son Fabian and Judge Pamela Appelt, who are the executors of Miss Lou’s estate, they began planning.
Harding said that the ambitious plan to unveil the statute during Jamaica’s 50th anniversary celebration failed. However, the planners remained steadfast in their mission to complete the project.
By: Racquel Porter