I was reading a BBC news story asking 'How many statues of black people does the UK have?' which concluded that this is not known. For the benefit of those unable to access it, of the 610 statues of named people in the Public Monuments & Sculpture Association database, only three are of black individuals - two of Nelson Mandela and one of Desmond Tutu. Yet the database focuses on older statues rather than ones erected this century and so is unlikely to contain most of the statues of black individuals erected in recent years, with the report finally concluding we believe that there are at least 15 outdoor statues of named black individuals in the UK.
An easier question to answer is 'How many statues of black people does the Isle of Wight have?'
How many statues of black people does the Isle of Wight have?
In order to answer this question it is important to first define what a statue is. In this case I shall define a statue as a named representation of a specific human figure intended to look like or represent them for the purposes of commemoration. Statues should be visible outside, in a public place, and should include a head and four limbs – two arms and two legs.
This definition excludes things such as war memorials and graves that include statues of angels. It also discounts the most common form of statuary on the Island, tomb effigies located within churches. This is not intended to disparage them, and in the Island's churches there are a selection of fascinating tombs containing statues. The grandest is perhaps Sir Robert Holmes (1622-1692). Holmes, Vice-Admiral and Governor of the Isle of Wight, is credited with a fiery temper that started two wars with the Dutch. He stole a statue of the French monarch King Louis XIV and appropriated it to represent himself for his own tomb. Many show people killed in war, such as Captain Seely (1894-1917) while John Cawte (1925-1944) was a gunner whose statue shows him dressed as Saint George. Others include MP, Deputy Governor of the Isle of Wight and diarist Sir John Oglander (1585-1655), who after his son's death wrote his diary entries in his own blood, buried in Brading's parish church and Sir Edward Horsey, who tried to overthrow Bloody Mary I (1525-1583) buried in Sts Thomas' Minster1, Newport. An 1856 memorial to Princess Elizabeth Stuart (1635-1650) who died at the age of 14 a prisoner at Carisbrooke Castle is also there. A bust of her father Charles I is in St Nicholas Chapel at Carisbrooke Castle, where he had been imprisoned, along with the inscription REMEMBER, although exactly what people are supposed to remember has long been forgotten.
Shoulders or Bust
A bust is a statue of someone's head and shoulders2 and a bust of Lord Louis Mountbatten (1900-1979) is on a plinth in St James' Square in Newport. Mountbatten was the last Governor of the Isle of Wight and first Lord Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight as well as the last Viceroy of India, controversially overseeing its partition, before his assassination by the IRA.
At the end we are left with the possibly surprising conclusion that there is, in fact, only one statue of a specific human visible outside with head and two arms and two legs located on the Isle of Wight, and as this is of Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970), 100% of statues on the Isle of Wight are of black people.
The 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, held at Afton Down outside Freshwater, was the biggest music festival in the world, with more people in attendance than the previous year's Woodstock. Jimi Hendrix was one of the festival's headline acts, performing in the early hours of 31st August. Less than three weeks later he was dead. In 2006 a statue was erected outside Freshwater's Dimbola Lodge, an art gallery located in the home of pioneering photographer Julia Margaret Cameron (1815 – 1879).