The wax head of Slinger “Mighty Sparrow” Francisco. Courtesy Arturo Edward
Soyini Grey

Trinidad picong and artistic sensitivities collided when a photograph of the new wax statue of the Calypso King of the World, Slinger “The Mighty Sparrow” Francisco, unveiled in Barbados last week was shared on social media yesterday.

For Trinidadians, it was yet another example of an unattractive attempt at creating a statue of Francisco. Jokes and the memes lampooning the statue were soon shared widely online. But for the sculptor Arturo Edward, there’s nothing funny about jabs at his art.

Edward, who created the statue for the Caribbean Wax Museum, who unveiled the statue in tribute to Sparrow’s contribution to the region through his music last week, was not amused. He responded to several comments under one Facebook post with the following stock response, “When a face is in (top-down) shadow and faded, it could be that of anybody’s.”

Explaining the unflattering image of his work via Facebook Messenger later on, he added, “The lighting on the figure in the picture is coming from the back and top. That kind of lighting is normally used in horror pictures.”

Edward said he was not pleased with the criticism, readily admitting to being sensitive about his work. But he is also concerned that the negative comments can be taken seriously by the people he is hoping to immortalise in rubber and wax in future. There are plans to create a David Rudder statue by next February and Edward worries that Rudder, who has visited the museum and approved of what he saw during that visit, may change his mind after he sees the comments on the Sparrow statue and may respond to the invitation with, “But you not good! You don’t know what you are doing!”

The work of the Caribbean Wax Museum is centred around celebrating our Caribbean icons while they are still alive. Edward does want to make an exception for the late Trinidadian pianist Hazel Scott. Born in Port-of-Spain, had she lived, the classically-trained musician would have been 100 this year.

The Caribbean Wax Museum is in the passion project of Edward and his wife. It houses over 50 figures and he says it is running out of space but memorialising our greats is part of its essential work.

As for yesterday’s viral photograph and the comments it sparked, Edward said he was reminded of the importance of good lighting. He shared a photograph of the head of the statue and a video to Guardian Media as proof of his work’s quality. Edward has not heard from Sparrow as yet, but his wife has seen it and Edward said she gave her approval of his work.