This statute known as ‘Redemption Song’ is located at Emancipation Park in Kingston, Jamaica, which was constructed in July 2002 according to its website. The work is symbolic of the emancipation of Jamaicans from slavery in 1838. From what I’ve gathered, it was done by a Jamaican artist, Laura Facey Cooper, and was considered controversial by many Jamaicans because they believed it promoted nudity. In addition to that, many of them were offended by the male statue’s nakedness, in particular, his penis size, and also that the sculptor was too ‘light-skinned’.
The dichotomy is that the opposition to the statue are prime examples of how the body can be freed easily, but freeing the mind requires more work, which causes us to question whether slavery has truly ended. Those views about the ‘color’ of the sculptor & black nudity lends itself to an uneducated public on artistic concepts; and the deeply-embedded facets of white supremacy coupled with the erasure of African memory.
In many parts pre-colonial Africa, nudity wasn’t largely regarded as sexual but rather, a way to deal with humid conditions, however, when the slave traders arrived, they viewed the so-called rampant nudity as indicative of a savage sexual nature. Once enslaved in these foreign lands, African men & women were mentally reconditioned to accept a Westernized view of themselves & to embrace & idolize whiteness. This, of course, went on for centuries spanning several generations.
To that end, here we are, in the 21st century, dealing with a statue that’s suppose to be a tribute to freedom. The sculptor’s vision of having the bodies rise from water reconnects to the African philosophy of the power of water with its ability to cleanse & renew. The nakedness factors into the concept of freedom as both the man and woman gaze upwards to God, presenting themselves as vulnerable & in search of heavenly guidance. For me, the statue is divine but I am almost certain that if a statue of this kind was done in the States, it may damn near send some twisted individuals into a certified tizzy.
“See the woman standing there naked with her high breasts,” one mother told her two daughters as they stood before the statue. “See the man standing opposite with his penis still flacid and they’re not even touching. That is emancipation.”