(AFP) — Jamaican artist Basil Watson will design a new national monument to the “Windrush” generation of Caribbean migrants who moved to Britain following World War II, the UK government announced Friday.
The decision to erect the memorial follows a scandal which first emerged in 2017 and caused much soul-searching about racism past and present in Britain.
It was revealed that thousands of Britons of Caribbean origin, who arrived legally between 1948 and the early 1970s, had been wrongly detained or deported under the ruling Conservative government’s hardline immigration policies.
Ministers have since apologised for the treatment victims faced and launched a compensation scheme.
The National Windrush Monument, which will be unveiled next year at London’s Waterloo station, will honour the generation’s “dreams, ambition, courage and resilience”, the government said.
It is contributing £1 million ($1.4 million, 1.2 million euros) in funding for the project.
The monument will feature three figures — a man, woman and child — dressed in their so-called “Sunday best”, climbing a mountain of suitcases hand-in-hand.
The sculpture will demonstrate “the inseparable bond of the Windrush pioneers and their descendants and the aspirations of their generation,” the government said in a statement announcing Watson’s selection.
The sculptor and painter was chosen by a Windrush Commemoration Committee from an initial longlist of 16 artists.
Watson’s own parents were members of the Windrush generation and he spent part of his childhood in Britain.
He has designed public sculptures and monuments around the world, including statues of US civil rights icon Martin Luther King and Jamaican-Slovenian sprinter Merlene Ottey.
“I feel privileged that I now have this opportunity to express the aspirations, vision and courage of my parents, who took the long sea voyage to England in 1952 as part of that Windrush generation in search of a brighter future,” Watson said in a statement.
“I look forward to bringing my design to life, because I know how much this means to the Windrush community.”
The community is named after the MV Empire Windrush ship, one of the vessels that brought workers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and other islands to help fill post-war UK labour shortages during that period.
Watson’s planned 12-foot (3.65-metre) bronze monument is set to be unveiled to the public on June 22, which in the aftermath of the scandal was designated in 2018 as Windrush Day.