Manley’s Bogle – Making a Myth of the Man

I’m glad that Edna Manley’s statue of Paul Bogle will not be returned to the place it was created for, in front of the Morant Bay Courthouse in Jamaica. A work of art deserves to be where it will be both safe and appreciated. Bogle is a powerful piece. It portrays a man of intelligence, courage and resolution. It moves those people who use their eyes to see and their minds to seek answers to wonder about this man and his story.

Who could this powerful hero be, and what brought him to this spot? Why does he hold his sword close – is it because he has the power to kill, but he will not use it? Has he turned his back on justice, or did it turn its back on him?

I remember seeing that statue for the first time, poised, looking away from the courthouse. It had a raw power that made me look at it, and look again, and wonder.  It did what a work of art should do – it challenged me to think about it.

Yes, you can put a “realistic” image of a man named Paul Bogle in its place – it will show that once there was a man named Paul Bogle. But it will not show that in Jamaica’s history, as Edna Manley saw and put into the work she created, Paul Bogle was so much more than just a man.

Would you like to know more?  The National Gallery of Jamaica has some information here.

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2 responses to “Manley’s Bogle – Making a Myth of the Man

  1. I have been reading Rachel Manley’s book ‘Drumblair’. In it she describes her grandmother, Edna Manley’s, idea of the figure she was creating. Part of what she describes her grandmother saying goes this way:

    About the man and the moment: “Bold. That’s what I want to capture. I was thinking, there are times when history cries out for a statement. Something irrevocable. … this was just one brave moment, the sudden slamming down of a fist or foot, saying, Enough! Stop! This was not conscious, but it expressed the will of the people…”

    And about the way the arms and weapon look like a cross, the head upright, the whole figure leaving the impression of a crucifixion:

    “…This is his sacrifice. But his head will be upright, looking at the future – both his demise and his hope for change…”

    Both Rachel in her writing and her grandmother in her creating give us much to think about.

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