Jamaica has a very contentious history with public art and, particularly, with some of the official monuments to key historical moments and public figures that have been erected since Independence. As I write this post, there are rumblings about the recently unveiled maquette for a statue to the popular Olympian track athlete Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and, as seems to be the norm with such statues in Jamaica, the issue at hand is whether the maquette represents an adequate likeness. The completed statue, which was commissioned by government from the Jamaican artist Basil Watson, is slated for unveiling later this year, at a date to be announced.
The Fraser-Pryce statue will be located at what has, quite unimaginatively, been christened Statue Park, in front of the National Stadium at Independence Park. There it will join Alvin Marriott’s imposing Athlete (1962), which was unveiled by Princess Margaret as a part of Jamaica’s Independence ceremonies, and various later statues dedicated to specific Jamaican track and field Olympians, such as Merlene Ottey, the first female athlete to be so honoured. Most later additions are by Basil Watson, who was also the artist of the statue to Usain Bolt that was successfully unveiled at the same location last year, after similar public anxieties about the maquette and the question of likeness. Additional statues, of Veronica Campbell-Brown and Asafa Powell and presumably also by Basil Watson, are being planned.