Moon Author's Review
At the corner of two figures stand resolute, cast in bronze, their bodies thick and steadfast. A strong black man faces a voluptuous woman, their heads proudly lifted to the sky as if at once acknowledging the rectitude of their long struggle for freedom and silently praying for guidance in a new era. The work, titled Redemption Song, was the winner of a blind competition commissioned to give the newly constructed Emancipation Park a meaningful headpiece. It was controversial for several reasons. First, its creator, Jamaican sculptor Laura Facey (www.laurafacey.com), has a very fair complexion. Second, the figures are naked, and the man could be considered well endowed. Some people wanted the sculpture immediately removed, and Facey was the talk of the island for weeks. In the end, artistic freedom prevailed and the sculpture was kept in place, much to its opponents' chagrin.
In late 2006, Facey opened an exhibit at the gallery in the natural history building of the Institute of Jamaica, where the central work was an homage to Redemption Song: a multitude of scaled-downed figures--identical to those on the corner of Emancipation Park--packed into a canoe reminiscent of the way they were brought through the Middle Passage. For Facey, the piece was part of a continuum consistent with the earlier work, which sets those captive souls on a new course to freedom. David Boxer, curator of the National Gallery, opened the exhibit by paying tribute to Redemption Song with the following words:
Q: . . . their heads are raised heavenwards in prayer...
Yes, this is a prayer--the work is a silent hymn of communion with, and thanksgiving to, the almighty. Their nudity is part of their potency.
Redemption Song and the controversy that surrounded it reflect the deep wounds slavery left on Jamaica and the world at large. Emancipation Park is among the best-maintained public spaces in all of Kingston, perfect for reflecting on the past, relaxing on one of the many benches, or just taking a stroll. Events are held frequently on a stage set up at the center of the park and next door at the Liguanea Club or on top of the NHT building.