Friday, August 08, 2003
I did a bit of follow-up on the Emancipation Park over the past day or so, doing a further personal site visit, including interviews with some of the workers. I then did a web search in the Gleaner and Observer sites (clippings available on request).
My findings follow:
1] There was much talk of the park being a monument to the history of our liberation and aspirations for a future, e.g. the PM's 2002 remark at the opening of the facility: "it was a monument to the resilience of Jamaicans . . . We dare not forget the beginning of our journey that has taken us through self-government, Independence and the continuing quest for a productive and prosperous way forward - a quest in which we are engaged today." [ http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20020802/lead/lead4.html ]
2] Backing this up, the Developers [NHT] went on record: "The park is being developed on seven acres of land in the busy commercial/financial district to provide the capital with needed 'green' space, but the developers are also linking the facility to Jamaica's history." [ http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20020727/real/real1.html ]
3] However, in the announced plans, there was no mention of a museum/visitors' centre, or of specific historical monuments or displays [ http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20020811/arts/arts1.html ]:
* Centrepiece of the park is the fountain . . . The water jets soar 20 feet in the air when the timers activate them and are able to dance to Marley's 'Redemption Song' and the National Anthem . . .
* There are three stone buildings at the park. One houses administrative offices and control centre, the other houses male and female bathroom facilities and the third is for storage and equipment.
* Green areas are lit (lights to be brightened) and here children will be allowed light play. There is a 50-metre jogging trail open daily from 4:00 a.m.
* The park is protected by 24-hour armed security patrols who have permission to eject the homeless/street people, as well as solicitors. It is also permanently monitored by electronic surveillance.
* There is a raised platform that can be used as a performing stage.
* All events held in the park will be free to the public and a cultural calendar of events will be planned. "It will not be rented to anyone," Mr. Thomas stressed.
4] I confirmed this pattern during my visit: the signs mainly post park rules, there are some botanical signs next to plants, there are PV panels in the lawns, the buildings are as described. So, as was pointed out in an Aug 19 letter of complaint to the Gleaner, "After touring the park, I came to the conclusion that no historical planning went into the design. There are no murals, insignia, statues (No one was able to tell me what the nude statue couple represents) or inscription to tell a story of the journey to Emancipation. It was embarrassing that not even the date of Emancipation was written anywhere. It is obvious that the park is just a beautiful place, without any significance." [ http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20020819/letters/letters1.html ]
5] On the "controversial statue" issue, several things were apparent:
* The proposed "ancestral spirit" statues were presented in a Gleaner Article of Aug 11 2002 as a photo-like picture that did not reveal their heavily sexualised nature, but did show that they would be nude. (The breast shown is noticeably smaller in proportion than in the actual piece, and the posing is such that the male genitalia are not visible -- in the actual piece the male figure is rotated so that the exaggerated penis is visible from Oxford Road a major public thoroughfare.)
* When in the 1960s AD Scott commissioned the Mariott piece that was rejected by the populace at that time, then was placed at the new park for a year, and has recently been placed at the long intended harbour View Roundabout site, this too was proposed as a monument to the national spirit: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/html/20030801t000000-0500_47052_obs_tpdco_needs_____m_to_cast_national_monument.asp
* "Fundamentalists" are being cast as the prudish villains of the piece -- in the words of today's Observer Editorial: "It is surprising that Ms Facey is being pilloried, not only by fundamentalists, or people who are naturally uneasy or uncomfortable with a public display of nudity, but by the self-appointed arbiters of Jamaican culture and art." [ http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/html/20030807T210000-0500_47283_OBS_BE_CAREFUL_OF_INTELLECTUAL_COMMISSARS.asp ]
Clearly, the Emancipation Park as a whole -- and not just the heavily sexualised Ancestral Spirits statue/ icon -- is severely flawed.
For, it simply fails to address the heritage and history that was advertised, which could easily have been done through placing a set of "heritage Stations" around the jogging trail, culminating in a monument to the Nation and its key virtues and visions as enshrined in our Pledge, Anthem and Coat of Arms, perhaps at the entry to the Visitor's Centre. In that Centre, a mini museum could be housed, and a regular multimedia show on our history and heritage could be done. Heritage items, including books and CDs could then be on sale to those who come.
Thus, the first redemptive steps for the Park as a whole would be to use the jogging trail and the storage building for a more enduring purpose.
But we dare not stop at that: we need to probe why a Park dedicated to our heritage failed so dismally to address this, while embroiling itself in a predicatable and so unecessary controversy over grosslty sexualised statues.
The answer, sadly, is not pretty:
a] History and Heritage, just as much as concerns over what is appropriate to display in a public place and monument, are family- and children- oriented issues. The park planners obviously catered to the interests and needs of joggers, environmentalists, the arts and culture community, etc, but neglected the children who embody the future that Emancipation is all about. Note the underlying complaint: the Park is not family-friendly, especially through the themes that it has emphasised in its signature monument.
b] Further, there may well be an ideological reason why the specific history of Emancipation was suppressed: it would throw precisely the same "fundamentalists" who are now being derided as prudes into a far different light than this Politically Correct, neo-pagan age is comfortable with. For, it was the dissenting churchmen who first seriously evangelised the slaves who through the Spirit of Freedom that breathes in the gospel, became the moral protagonists of the slaves' liberation struggle -- here and in Britain.
So, we must now ask whether the history of emancipation has been censored out of Emancipation Park because the very ones who ask embarrassing questions about the propriety of the heavily sexualised Ancestral Spirits monument would otherwise have been lent credibility as the Spiritual Heirs of those who led the liberation struggle.
Further, we must call for the sins of omission as well as commission to be put right: the park must teach the history of emancipation, and must be made family-friendly.
Therefore, let us act:
1] Let us publicly present and call for Emancipation park to accurately and fairly reflect the missing facet of the History of Emancipation: the gospel-linked Spiritual struggle, especially in the run-up to National Heroes Day.
2] In so doing, we could suggest that the jogging trail become a heritage walk as well, and that the storage room become a visiotor's centre with a museum and multimedia theatre.
3] In speaking to the objectionable, heavily sexualised Ancestral Spirits monument, we need to point out the educational and nurturing function that such a public monument should facilitate, and ask pointedly how the existing monument contributes to such. (That is, the issue is NOT unbridled freedom of artistic expression, nor what semi-pagan rennaissance Italians did with their public monuments but what sort of monument is proper for a taxpayer-funded Emancipation Park in Jamaica.)
4] Perhaps, the monument is simply mis-located, and should be removed to the appropriate location in the National Gallery, with due notice that some may find its themes offensive. As an alternative, the suggestion that the dome at the base be topped off with a skirting wall some 2 ft high could suffice to address public concerns.
4] The Harbour View Monument should not be lost in the discussion -- for it is perhaps even more inappropriate in its own way. This, too, needs to be confronted: is this what we want Visitors to our island to see as their FIRST impression of Jamaica's Capital City? Does it really adress the themes of Jamaica's independence and hopes for the future, or is it not isnstead, simply a naked couple about to engage in foreplay [the penis is not yet erect]?
Thus, the issues stand revealed: what are the virtues, values and visions that should shape the future of our nation, and especially the children who literally embody that future.
Thursday, August 07, 2003
NB: Before anything else, I must add my voice to the many who have expressed sadness over the action of the Episcopalian Church of the USA which ahs this week confirmed as a Bishop a man who abandoned his family to live in open and perverse adultery. For shame!
Those who have entertained the apostasy that derides the Scriptures should therefore take note as to where that path ends: in open defiance of the Word of God that is not satisfied untli it bends Religious Institutions to suit its perverse and pernicious ways.
But, God is not surprised, nor over-awed. For, he has set a day in which he shall judge the world witrh perfect righteousness.
Yesterday, as promised, and along with several others, I visited Emancipation park where we prayed, proclaimed, read Scriptures and discussed among ourselves and with passersby. Arising from this visit and discussion, several things are apparent about that park:
1) Despite its name, it has no public inscription displaying the history of emancipation in Jamaica, not even key quotes. (Apart from the very flawed one at the base of the controversial statues.)
2) Similarly, key national symbols such as our Anthem, pledge and even Coat of Arms are missing. (One is led to wonder, given what has been highlighted -- ancestral spirits and a heavy emphasis on their sexuality: perhaps, these are too obviously judaeo-christian?)
3) The statues could be "redeemed" by simply building up the skirting wall another 2 or so feet, covering the pubic area from view by the general public on the road or sidewalk.
As a preliminary step towards supplying a summary on the history of slavery and emancipation, with a highlight on the kley role of the Gospel, I attach the following.
DRAFT Notes on the Gospel & Emancipation in Jamaica
A half a millennium ago,
the Christian Faith came to the Caribbean with the first European Discoverers,
Conquistadores and settlers; at best an ambivalent situation.
At that time, the region
was largely populated by Amerindians, though some islands were uninhabited.
Especially in the larger islands, these inhabitants were reduced under the Encomienda
system of forced labour, and suffered many abuses, so that they were partly
destroyed, and partly absorbed into the general mass of the population.
Bartoleme de las Casas,
the first man ordained a priest in the New World, became a champion of these
oppressed people, along with many other church leaders. He spoke prophetically
against Spain's oppression, but in so doing he suggested the importation of
black Africans to carry out the work. (He probably did not anticipate the consequences
over the next several hundred years.)
Soon, there was a trans-Atlantic
Slave trade, a complement to the long extant trans-Sahara trade carried out
by the Arabs and Berbers (who preferred female slaves). So, over the next three
centuries, an estimated 12 millions were brought across the Atlantic, under
crowded and inhumane conditions, and auctioned off like cattle in the various
slave markets of the Americas.
This trade, however, did
not reach full stride until in the mid 1600s, the Caribbean underwent the so-called
sugar revolution, when Dutch merchants from Brazil taught and afforded credit
to go into the sugar industry. Consequently, slave populations exploded as field
hands were now required in vast numbers for the plantations.
Spiritual Needs & the
Gospel of Liberation
The spiritual needs of
these slaves were responded to in different ways in the Catholic and English
colonies. In the former, it was required that the slaves be christianised under
Roman Catholic teaching, but in the latter, the settlers typically - but all
too tellingly -- took a dim view of evangelizing the slaves because of the liberating
implications of the Bible, such as in Galatians 3:13 - 14, 26 - 29, and 5:1,
13 - 15:
'Christ redeemed us
from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed
is everyone who is hung on a tree." He redeemed us in order that the blessing
given to Abraham might come to the [peoples] through Christ Jesus, so that
by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit . . . . You are all sons
of God through faith in Christ Jesus . . . There is neither Jew nor Greek,
slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you
belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the
promise . . . . It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm,
then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery . .
. . You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom
to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire
law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbour as yourself." If
you keep biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed
by each other.' [Cf. Acts 17:24 - 31.]
While these texts speak
primarily to spiritual bondage, the implications for any species of enslavement
are all too plain. If that were not enough, we can read in 1 Cor 7:21 - 23:
"Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you - although
if you can gain your freedom, do so. For he who was a slave when he was called
by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he
was called is Christ's slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves
This unmistakable attitude
carries through in Philemon, written to accompany Onesimus, an escaped slave,
now returning to his master who was also a convert of Paul:
'I appeal to you for
my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains . . . I would have
liked to keep him so that he could take your place in helping me while I am
in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent
. . . Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was
that you might have him back for good - no longer as a slave, but better than
a slave, as a dear brother . . . . So if you consider me a partner, welcome
him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything,
charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it
back . . . I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the
Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.' [Philemon 10 - 20.]
With language like that
in the commonly available Protestant English Bible, it was no wonder that there
was a considerable (and all too evidently self-interested and hypocritical)
ambivalence among the English regarding slavery; and, no wonder the most torturous
misinterpretations and manipulations were made over the Centuries to justify
slavery by claiming, for example, that blacks were not fully human. For shame!
As a result of the inattention
to the spiritual needs of the slaves, in Jamaica Myal and Obeah had emerged
by the time of the 1760 Tacky pan-tribal slave rebellion; out of a synthesis
of the various African animistic faiths brought to Jamaica by the survivors
of the notoriously murderous Middle Passage. As the Baptist Faith would later
serve, these belief systems formed a focus for cultural survival and resistance
to the cruel bondage of plantation slavery in the Caribbean.
The Non-Conformist Missionaries
& Liberation Struggles
Two hundred and fifty years
after Columbus' voyages, the first serious attempts were made to evangelise
slaves in the Anglophone territories; many of whom enthusiastically converted
to the Christian Faith.
Even more of the slaves
adapted to that faith through syncretism with their own Animist beliefs - reflecting
the common theme of a High God, but retaining the typical Animist scheme of
intermediary sky- and earth- bound spirit beings. (This manifests a typical
pattern of conversion, adaptation and syncretism that is instantly recognizable
to any culturally informed Missiologist. Chevannes  and Newman & Wade
I & II  are the major sources for the survey that now follows.)
For instance, in the mission
and native Baptist churches that emerged through a major facet of this process,
there was a spectrum of beliefs from orthodox Christian faith to a syncretistic,
Christianized Myal. Remnants of this blend remain to this day - more than one
church has had a chicken or a goat sacrificed at the laying of its foundation!
In particular, in 1783,
George Liele, a black American preacher and ex-slave who had planted the African
Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia [reportedly the first black American independent
church] arrived in Jamaica, to serve here until his death in 1828. He boldly
preached the gospel, and planted many churches, sparking off a church planting
movement across the island that resulted in the rise of Jamaica's native Baptist
church. As he got along in years, in the 1810's, he invited the British Baptists
to join him and the other native and American leaders in the work, so that Jamaica
soon had Burchell, Knibb, and Phillipo labouring here as well.
But also, this process
led to a trans-Atlantic alliance among evangelical believers that gave a powerful
boost to the anti-slave trade and abolitionist movements in Britain. For, now,
there was a network of credible leadership that could testify to the truth about
that wicked trade and its associated system of chattel slavery. Thus, most critically,
the voice of Wilberforce in Parliament, initially a lone evangelical parliamentary
voice against slavery, had considerable reinforcement.
Over the period to the
1830s, increasingly, the Christian Faith and its native and missionary leaders
would therefore become the protagonists of a long liberation struggle with the
plantocracy and its allies in the West India Interest in Britain. Gradually
the Abolitionists won over a reluctant Parliament to their cause, especially
as the economic power of sugar began to wane. So at the turn of the 1830's,
Emancipation was in the air.
However, the struggle would
come to a violent head through the Christmas 1831 slave strike demanding pay
for work. The strike was led by Baptist Deacon Sam Sharpe; it turned into the
"Baptist War" uprising because of the usual overly harsh repression by the local
militia, issuing in the hanging of over three hundred slaves and the further
terrorization of the over three hundred thousand slaves across the island. Among
the executed was Sharpe, Jamaica's first political martyr and national hero:
he had acquired arms in advance of the strike, showing that he anticipated such
a military struggle as a likely outcome.
But, their sacrifice accelerated
the British decision to abolish slavery in the Empire, so within a few years
of the strike-cum-uprising, emancipation occurred in 1834 - 38.
Thus, the gospel played
a vital role in the liberation of the Caribbean, especially in Jamaica.
The dawning of full freedom
was celebrated in the non-conformist churches, and these churches went on to
foster the development of a free, independent peasantry through the free villages
movement, Sligoville in the hills above Linstead being the first.
(The free villages initiative
was based on endowments used by the missionary leaders to purchase blocks of
land that were parceled out into family-sized lots, with a church and school.
Ex-slaves bought the land at a discount, under covenantal terms that every seventh
year there should be a land Sabbath, and that there should be an annual harvest
thanksgiving festival. Some of these practices survive to the present day in
congregations all over the region.)
By 1843, the ex-slaves
began going as Christian Missionaries to West Africa. As a result, perhaps a
hundred Caribbean missionaries played a critical catalytic role in the founding
of the Evangelical Christian Faith in this part of Africa. So much is this the
case, that in a recent issue of the Journal of African Christian Thought, George
Liele, the American Baptist missionary pioneer and former slave who came to
Jamaica from Georgia to preach the gospel in the 1780's is described as a black
prophet and father of the church in the Americas and Africa.
However, in the 1860's,
the global awakening led not only to a new wave of converts in the churches,
but to a revitalization of Myal through a synthesis with the less theologically
sound elements of the native Baptists. Also, in 1865, when a protest broke out
over harsh repression of suffering peasants in St Thomas, the Militia fired
on the protesters, triggering the so-called Morant bay Rebellion, which led
to extreme repression: 1,000 peasant houses razed; 600 flogged, 400 shot or
hanged, including deacon Bogle who led the protest and riots, and Gordon, a
native Baptist leader/church overseer and merchant who had been an activist
pleading the cause of the over-burdened peasantry.
For survival, the Baptist
church retreated from such activism as Crown Colony Government was instituted
across the region.
Subsequently, the Christian
faith has played a vital role in the Caribbean, well known as one of the most
thoroughly churched regions in the world. However, in our time, that heavily
Christian focus has begun to wane, under the impact of secularism, neopagan
influences allying themselves to the animist elements of folk culture, and to
the apostasy of many of the churches that have for decades been led by men who
deride the Scriptures. This has been accelerated by the lack of cultural relevance
of many evangelicals in the region. Therefore, there is a crying need for the
fullness of the gospel to once again be heard in the region, and for Christians
to arise and lead our region in reformation.
Tuesday, August 05, 2003
August 5, 2003
In response to a recent trend in Public Monuments in Jamaica, on Independence Day, Wed. Aug 6, 2003, I intend to go to the SE entrance of the Emancipation Park and proclaim the below, with Bible Reading, Prayer and the singing of Jamaica's National Anthem, especially the second verse, which begins "Teach us true respect for all, Stir response to duty's call . . . "
On Statues, Idolatry and Public Morality
Sculpture has again become a focus for controversy in Jamaica, because of a
Laura Facey nude group erected at the entrance to Emamcipation Park, the site
of a public protest over nude weddings in February 2000.
On the one hand, there has been much talk about how beautiful such statues
are, and how lovely and spiritual the human form is. On the other, there has
been concern over the heavily sexual (possibly even obscene) nature of the statues,
and over whether they in fact connect to the cultural core issue of emancipation,
the theme of the taxpayer-funded Park.
But also, over the past year, a somewhat more restrained but just as heavily
sexually tinged group stood in the same site ever since the park was opened,
and now sits at the location that had been planned for it in the 1960's: the
Harbour View roundabout, at the root of the Palisadoes peninsula on which Kingston's
main airport stands. So, this second statue would be the first monument seen
by visitors to our capital city.
Further, in 1999, the National University, U.Tech, commissioned a Caribbean
Sculpture Park (partially funded by taxpayers through statutory bodies), which
contains a second Laura Facey statue. So, about twenty feet from the entry to
the Chapel, aligned on an East-West axis stands a nude, Earth Mother goddess
figure, arching over backwards in such a way that her larger than life pubic
region is at eye-level for one approaching or leaving the Chapel.
Clearly, a pattern emerges.
To better understand it, we need to reflect briefly on sculpture, symbolism,
idolatry and public morality. For, given that the first and foremost challenge
of a community is to raise up its children to build a better future, societies
have long agreed that there must be a family-friendly public domain that preserves
children from a too early focus on matters that they are not mature enough to
handle. (So, for instance, our laws have long held that what is suitable and
proper for the privacy of one's bedroom is not necessarily suitable for display
in the public.)
First, let us observe that statues -- whether realistic or abstract, in the
round or in relief -- can be beautiful, and are powerfully symbolic. For, they
evoke deep associations with the defining stories and themes of a culture. But
by that same power, they can unfortunately become a moral and spiritual snare;
pulling individuals, families and whole nations into bondage to lies and demonic
passions and even destructive sensual or violent frenzies. Therefore, idolatry
has long been associated with sculptural images -- and with grossly immoral
For instance, we find in the Ten Commandments, circa 1300 - 1400 BC:
"You shall not have other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself
an idol in the form of anything in heaven or on the earth beneath or in the
waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them . . ." [Deut.
5:7 - 9, NIV.]
This was not a prohibition on sculpture as an art form -- in Numbers 21:4 -
9 God instructed Moses to make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole so that
those bitten by snakes could "look and live" -- but equally, the same
statue had to be destroyed centuries later by godly king Hezekiah because it
had become an object of veneration. [2 Kings 18:1 - 4. NB: The Middle Ages in
Europe, sadly, provide another example of this, and the Reformers were forced
to destroy a large number of fine works of art because of such abuse. In many
of these cases, the very donors of the works personally smashed them.]
In short, there is a fundamental problem: we are easily distracted from reality
by attractive symbols, and so Paul aptly comments:
". . . since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities --
his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood
from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they
knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their
thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they
claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal
God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual
impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged
the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather
than the Creator . . . . Because of this, God gave them over to shameful [perverted]
lusts . . . . since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge
of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.
They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,
slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways
of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless,
heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those
who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very
things but also approve of those who practice them." [Rom 1:19 - 32.
Circa 55 AD.]
Paul later echoes and amplifies these shocking thoughts, as he calls for the
people of God to live above such a gutter level:
". . . you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of
their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from
the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardenming
ofd their hearts. having lost all [moral] sensitivity, they have given themselves
over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual
lust for more.
"You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard
of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.
you were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old
self, which is being corrupted by deceitful desires; to be made new in the
attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God
in true righteousness and holiness." [Eph. 4:17 - 24.]
From these two texts, we see opposed personal and social dynamics at work:
(1) ingratitude to God, leading to substituting the creature for the Creator,
thence moral coarsening and captivity to sensuality, violence and evil; vs.
(2) renewal of our minds, lives and communities as we follow the holy God in
Clearly, the question now before Jamaica is which of these divergent paths
we will choose as a nation. Let us pray that our people will choose wisely,
that our Eternal Father may once again renew his blessings in our land.