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The Bronze Woman: The first public statue of a Black woman in England

The Bronze Woman, which was unveiled on October 8, 2008, in the south London town of Stockwell at the Stockwell Memorial Gardens, is a 10-foot bronze sculpture of a Black woman holding a child. The first public statue of a Black woman in England, it was the brainchild of Guyanese poet Cécile Nobrega.

Nobrega, who died on November 19, 2013, at the age of 94, was a scholar, musician, artist, writer, and poetess. “The Bronze Woman Monument” was inspired by a poem she had written some 50 years before, that celebrates the women of the Caribbean. It took over 10 years of planning and fundraising to make the monument a reality in 2008.

The sculpture, initially designed by renowned sculptor Ian Walters, was created to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Maafa trafficking (Atlantic slave trade). It was also the 60th anniversary of the Empire Windrush landing in the UK, bringing with it the first major wave of Caribbean immigrants there. However, Walters died before the project was completed and it was finished by sculptor-artist Aleix Barbat.

On the 1st of June 2019, marking exactly 100 years since Cécile Nobrega was born, an iconic Blue Heritage Plaque was installed on her Lambeth home, close to where the Bronze Woman Statue still stands.

BRONZE WOMAN by Cécile Nobrega

Find me a place
in the sun
in the sea
on a rock
near an Isle
in the Caribbee:
There I will set her,
Honoured, Free!
to be kissed and petted by the wind;
to be washed with the brine of sweet and bitter memoirs
to be stubborn and steadfast as night,
Dark is her Destiny
Wrong her right.
Woman of Bronze!
Symbol of Slavery
sweat and toil,
who can foil
your quest
for best
to give your child?
One night a woman
says the Book,
went to Him late,
late in the gloomy darkness
of the night;
Went to Him, the Light,
for places for her sons
the left, the right
to sit beside Him.
Chide her not!
Mother instinct is the same
as then
for evermore
however mild,
she seeks the betterment
of her child.
Bronze Woman!
You were no different
When you laid with massa boss,
you knew there was no loss
of favours
Food for the black and hungry brood,
Mulato-Eurasian child money
subsidised economy,
a step away
from want and need:
a step away
from toil and sweat
the heat of day:
Feel no hurt
with those who talk
of illegitimacy
and illiteracy,
Social stigmas – Language Craft;
Feel proud
that you have done your part:
Stained your skirt
with water-mark
waist deep
paddy beds
cane fields
to keep
stinted stomachs
hungry mouth
salt and rice
such sacrifice
as those passed on many know of
Consumptive death
Malarial death,
visited troolie huts
clean earthen floor
the same as
Overseer, Manager
to driver
child labour.
All this you bore,
Feel hurt no more.
Feel Joy
with those who served the mine,
today your sons and daughters shine
like the bright gold
you bartered for,
in great professions,
Music, Medicine, Law.
White Man’s purse
has no curse
his seed
no need:
but Men
poor Men
they run away
after the night
the day
is done
they’re gone
through need
disown their seed
then you are left alone
Bronze Woman
Caribbean Woman
To play a dual role.
Stalwart woman-man
With the sun in your bones
and the bloods in your veins;
strength in your heart
and love in your limbs,
Your buxom breasts
hang down
like juicy brown mangoes
in the mouth of your child,
Your eyes are determined
Yet gentle and mild,
Who can help but set you
Bronze Woman
Who can help but cherish
This monument of Love…………
Then find me a place
in the sun
in the sea
on a rock
Near an Isle
In the Caribbee:
There I will set her
Bronze Woman
Honoured for shaping
Our Destiny.


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1 comment

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