World-renowned Jamaican sculptor Basil Watson has won the 2023 United Kingdom Public Statues and Sculptures Association (PSSA) Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture for his work, “The National Windrush Monument.” Watson’s award-winning sculpture is located at Waterloo Station in London and presents a strong visual narrative through figures of a man, woman, child, and their suitcases to symbolize the importance of the migration of people from the Caribbean, many of them from Jamaica, to the UK after World War II on the ship, “HMS Windrush,” to be part of what is now known as the “Windrush Generation.”
The Sculptor’s Response
Watson expressed delight at having his work recognized by the PSSA with the presentation of the Marsh Award and described winning as “a great honor.” He thanked all those who voted for his work as their favorite piece. He said the artwork is meant as a “tangible and evocative reminder” of a momentous period in human history. He explained that the work was done to stir the public’s emotion, and now to have the public vote in record numbers to give him the award was “overwhelming.”
People in the UK who are members of the Windrush Generation and their heirs have had a strong emotional response to Watson’s monument, which honors their ambition and courage. Watson shared that he had seen people “moved to tears” at the monument, which was developed with £1 million in government funding. He added that the community probably never thought its experiences and contributions to the development and culture of the UK would be remembered in this way.
Life and Works
Basil Watson was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1958. His father is painter Barrington Watson, and his brother is sculptor Raymond Watson. He studied at the Jamaica School of Art before becoming the leading sculptor in Jamaica. He moved to the United States in 2002 and established a studio and his home in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He was presented with the Order of Distinction, Commander Class, by the Jamaican government in 2016 in honor of his artistic accomplishments. His most notable works in Jamaica include the 2006 “Balance” installed at Doctor’s Cave Bathing Club in Montego Bay for the club’s centennial celebration; the 2006 statue of sprinter Merlene Ottey, installed at National Stadium in Kingston; and the 2009 sculpture of sprinter Herb McKenley, also installed at National Stadium. An internationally recognized artist, Watson has completed major artworks in China, Guatemala, and several states in the US, along with commissioned works for governments and organizations worldwide. “The Windrush Monument” is his first public artwork in the UK.
His Personal Windrush Voyage
Watson said that creating “The National Windrush Monument” was his own “personal Empire Windrush voyage” as it had transported him along a journey from his past to his future. He shared that the monument had brought insights into his past that seemed “meaningless dots” in his history and linked them to his present experiences. The work also brought him a new perspective and appreciation of who he is. Watson hoped that commuters traveling through Waterloo Station would understand that the attitude and mission of the Windrush Generation were heroic.