Olivia Grange, Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, presided over the historic signing of a Deed of Gift through which the Coverley Collection – many items from Louise “Miss Lou” Bennett Coverley and her husband Eric Coverley – have been given to the National Library of Jamaica (NLJ). The library, which is an agency of the Ministry, is now the official repository of the collection. Bennett Coverley, known affectionately as “Miss Lou” was a noted author, poet, and folklorist; her husband was a calligrapher and draughtsman.
The historic signing and the unveiling of Miss Lou’s statue was attended by hundreds of locals, government officials, and visitors who crowded into Gordon Town Square in St. Andre on Friday, September 7, 2018, to pay tribute to the cultural icon.
The statue is installed near the police station and courthouse in the town where Bennett Coverley spent most of her life before moving to Toronto, Canada. The life-sized statue was created by Basil Watson. Prime Minister Andrew Holness unveiled the artwork on what would have been Miss Lou’s 99th birthday.
At the unveiling, Holness praised Louise Bennett Coverley for helping Jamaicans recognize the power of the Jamaican language. He stated that the country should return to a time when people were happy to identify with and have pride in the culture. To this end, the government has started to erect symbols of individuals who have contributed to creating Jamaica’s cultural values. The statue of Miss Lou is a fitting tribute to her life and work.
Miss Lou has been described as much more than a performing artist. She was an ambassador for the Jamaican people at a time when the island’s culture was not well-respected and the local language was derided. She was a courageous defender of Jamaica and its people and relentless in her promotion of island folklore throughout the world.
Photos by Steve James