Jamaica erects statue to patois popular Miss Lou

Pictured at the unveiling from left are: sculptor Basil Watson; Canadian jurist Pamela Appelt, co-executor of Bennett-Coverley’s estate; Juliet Holness, Prime Minister Andrew Holness; Olivia Grange, minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport; and Fabian Coverley, son of the late cultural icon.
Michael Gordon

Jamaica scored cool points with both genders in the nation by elevating the profile of one woman with installation of a statue erected in her honor.

Recently, politicians unveiled a life-sized statue of Louise Bennett Coverley dressed in the national costume she wore to identify Miss Lou, the beloved folklorist who regularized patois as the functional and accepted vernacular for Jamaicans to communicate.

The ceremony marked a milestone event for the country, which like so many others rarely bestow visible monuments to accomplished women.

“It is a great joy for me to see this woman whom so many Jamaicans see as mother, being elevated both physically and psychologically in the minds of Jamaicans. Miss Lou now has a statue to celebrate her and those who pass by will look up to her for inspiration and encouragement as we continue to achieve sustainable prosperity for our people,” Olivia Grange, minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport said.

Placed in the Gordon Town area of St. Andrew where the lingual specialist resided before migrating to Canada, the monument represents one of only a handful of statues dedicated to women.

“The unveiling of the statue of the Hon. Louise Bennett Coverley ‘Miss Lou’ in Gordon Town Square is another important act of recognition and preservation of Miss Lou’s role in shaping Jamaica’s unique cultural history,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness said during the unveiling on the 99th birthday of the legendary honoree.

Since colonial rule when Queen Victoria and other British royalty named recreational parks, buildings, schools, historic landmarks and other distinguishing locales, men have outpaced women in claiming national monuments.

Bennett Coverley died July 2006 in Ontario, Canada after a lifetime dedicated to promoting an appreciation of Jamaican culture.

Using music, poetry, storytelling and theater to advance the use of patois in teaching institutions, the iconic performer also travelled the globe as an ambassador to promote the island’s treasured speech pattern.

She was an author and broadcast specialist who charmed audiences at home and abroad using dialect verses that not only poked fun at local wannabe British mimics and often explained the derivative of words and idioms native to Africa.

“The installation of the statue is part of the government’s plan to establish Miss Lou Square in Gordon Square as a fitting and lasing tribute to this outstanding woman, the mother of Jamaican culture,” Grange added.

The Square will be completed next year to mark the centennial anniversary of the birth of Miss Lou.

Athletes have dominated the Independence Park landscape at the National Stadium to depict achievers of excellence in sports from the island.

Only three female Olympians have won placement with the honorary row of achievers.

Merlene Ottey, Jamaica’s most decorated athlete was first in 2005.

She is the only track athlete to compete in seven Olympic Games — the first time in 1980 in Moscow, Russian; the last time in 2004 in Athens, Greece.

She has won 30 Olympic and World championship medals.

An announcement was made that Olympians Victoria Campbell-Brown and Shelly Fraser Pryce will be honored later this year with statues.

However, still awaiting their big day, Fraser Pryce is closest to achieving the eight-foot likeness for being coveted the “fastest woman on earth” when a statue will be erected on Oct. 14.

Winning the 100 metres gold during the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, at age 21, Fraser Pryce became the first Jamaican and Caribbean woman to win 100 metres gold at the Olympics.

Now 31, another triumphant day for the achieving mother is nearing.

Soon after, Campbell Brown will also be immortalized.

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