Columns

Nuff respect to Usain

...never mind the ugly toes

Barbara Gloudon

Friday, December 08, 2017

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LAST Sunday afternoon, at the National Stadium in Kingston, another chapter in the life and times of one of our most dedicated athletes brought him into the limelight again, gaining the approval and pride of Ja people from every corner of the land of his birth.

Bolt came to the Stadium one more time to accept one more honour. The occasion was the unveiling of his statue — a representation of the man he has grown to be; from his start as a young fellow born in a rural parish, who went on to develop gradually into a young hero in the global arena of athletics.

On his journey, he admirably represented not only himself but his family and others, who, day by day, put in hard work towards his success. It was for that and various other reasons that he was accorded the honour of a statue depicting him installed on the grounds of the National Stadium — a place of achievement where those long, long legs tore up the track throughout his career.

Already people are declaring that they intend to go see the statue, not out of mere curiosity, but because it is something worthwhile. The work has been done with utmost attention to detail, and a bit of humour with, as Usain remarked, his “ugly toes”. The youngsters, and oldsters if they want, will get a good laugh at the hero who doesn't seem to mind poking fun at himself. The statue shows his trademark pose as he stands with his shoes near his naked, “ugly feet and the ugly toes”. Is not me say so, that's how he described it. Will other owners of ugly toes embrace them from now on?

The creativity of sculptor Basil Watson joins that of Alvin Marriott, whose works celebrate others who have been honoured for their performances of excellence in the field of athletics. Did you see the news photos of Usain Bolt expressing his thanks to Basil Waston for his work on the statue?

Besides the sculpture of “The Man” himself, there are statues of Donald Quarrie, Merlene Ottey, Herb McKenley, and a composite work, The Athlete, which salutes the early representatives for Jamaica at the Olympics and other international events.

The area in the National Stadium looks well cared for and well worth the visit. Commendations to those who have made the heroes' area a clean and interesting place. From now on it must remain that way. Our national pride must be maintained. Currently, there are modest-sized information plaques attached to each statue, which should pass useful information on to school groups and others who are curious.

To those who raise questions about the role of women in sports, notice has already been given that statues of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell Brown will be given their place of recognition soon. There is also by the entry gate, a representation of a netballer, representing the Sunshine Girls. Give thanks for gender progress!

There are still Stadium questions to be answered. Some time ago, Edward Seaga, then the national leader, had plans for the strip of land across from the Stadium, which was to have been used for development in the spirit of the arts — according to what I remember. I cannot recall what really became of that idea. The land is still there, accessible to parked cars, a herd of goats, and spreaders of rubbish.

Meanwhile, as we are talking statues, in that same area adjacent to the Stadium complex, Bob Marley's statue, created by the late Alvin Marriott, is still on display, visited frequently by those who pass through the city. How many remember the earlier work by the noted artist Christopher Gonzalez who had created a work based on Bob growing like a tree, with his locks, microphone and feet entwined with roots, grounding him to the base.

The work did not find public favour. Some felt it didn't look like the usual image of Bob. In response to the disaffection, soldiers were brought in to haul away the expression of Rasta symbolism. I saw nothing wrong with it.

That edition of Bob's statue didn't return to the site. It was stored at the National Gallery for many years until it was dispatched to a location in Ocho Rios.

You must have heard of the gross attack launched on Raymond Watson when some disagreed with his vision of a young Marcus Mosiah Garvey. I have no issue with differences of opinion, but were the ugly attacks on the artist really necessary?

More art...

As we speak about art, June and Tony Wong and their team brought off a good one with the 13th staging of the Liguanea Art Festival, last Sunday. It was a good mixture of all kinds of creativity featuring established and up-and-coming artists and artisans.

Congrats, as usual, it was a job well done.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or gloudonb@yahoo.com.

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