If you remember, a beautiful bronze statue of Michael was erected in China on the auspicious day of 01-11-11. This was an exciting event and warmed the hearts of many fans who want to see Michael remembered in this permanent way. The statue is magnificent and though it resides in China, many across the world celebrated this occasion.
In October of 2009, a copper statue of Michael was unveiled in Shan Yuan, Hong Kong. The statue was created by artist Alex To. As with the Chinese statue, Mr. Howard McCrary was on hand for the unveiling of the Hong Kong statue as well. In the video below, Howard McCrary entertains the guests and Ms. Genevieve Jackson addresses the crowd and unveils the statue of her uncle. It’s a very touching ceremony and the statue is very well done. Watching the video, it feels more like a family gathering than a gathering of people from all over the world.
And, you’ve no doubt heard the hubbub about the statue of Michael his dear friend Mohamed Al Fayed gratuitously placed at Craven Cottage. Some of Michael’s fans were pleased with this arrangement. Others were incensed that this is a terrible place for a statue of Michael, or have said it is a terrible likeness of Michael. Still others were simply concerned because of the vile resistance from some Fulham fans to having such a statue at their team’s club, and because of vandalism threatened by some.
However, like it or not, Mr. Al Fayed was a good friend of Michael’s and he wanted to honor his friend. Like it or not, he does have the money and the right to place a statue there if he likes since he owns the club. The statue was originally to be placed outside Harrod’s, but Al Fayed sold Harrods on 8 May 2010 to Qatar Holdings for £1.5 billion.
All concerns aside, one has to agree that Mr. Al Fayed’s heart is in the right place at least, even if the statue may not be in some opinions. Mr. Al Fayed already lost a son in that horrible accident years ago. The loss of both Princess Diana and Dodi stunned the world – Mr. Al Fayed and Michael especially. Could it be Michael was like a son to Mr. Al Fayed? He was at least a very dear friend. Maybe that’s why he misses him enough to erect a statue in his memory, regardless of what others may think.
The people of Rio, where Michael made the video for ‘They Don’t Care About Us‘ have not forgotten Michael either. Though state authorities and a judge resisted Michael’s filming the video in Dona Marta because the abject poverty and human rights issues would then be exposed and might affect their tourist industry, the filming nonetheless went ahead. In fact to the contrary, the film’s being made there turned the place into a ‘model for social development‘ according to Billboard in 2009, and Michael had a lot to do with that.
It seems that something of this effect may continue, as a bronze-cast statue of Michael was just unveiled on Morro Santa Marta. Tiano Donato, intern at Catalytic Communities, says the statue will ‘help pave the road between slum and asphalt‘. Tiano Donato says:
The statue commemorates the late King of Pop’s visit in 1995 when he was present for the recording of “They Don’t Care About Us”. It was placed on the very concrete slab where Michael Jackson danced in front of hundreds of residents, for a scene in the video, along with a mosaic by Brazilian artist Romero Britto. . . It was alleged, also, that the producer Spike Lee had to negotiate with drug traffickers that controlled the community of Santa Marta at the time, to ensure Michael Jackson’s safety. The track was also the subject of more controversy in the US, where a second version of the video, which focused on the American incarcerated population, was banned from daytime airplay due to the violent footage in it.
In 2009 the track’s timely use, only days before Michael’s death, in a video denouncing the Iranian elections, brought over 30,000 views within days. Coincidentally, it is this video that CatComm uses to highlight the power and simplicity of social media in our social media course for grassroots leaders from across Rio.
Tiano is hopeful about the possible social ‘bridging‘ effects of this statue and he also mentions that Santa Marta was a model for social improvement & development:
We at Catalytic Communities find the novelty exciting, as it amounts to one of Rio’s attractions, being located inside a favela (slum). The King of Pop is so well-liked that even Rio’s middle class families who have never set foot inside one of the city’s favelas may begin visiting this one (out of thousands) of poor neighborhoods that exist in their backyards. Even moreso now that a furnicular tram has been implemented on the hillside, along with green roofs and improved day care facilities, and a new policing strategy has successfully begun driving violent organized crime out of some of Rio’s favelas, of which Santa Marta was the first and the model (see the city-wide project’s own English-language website here).
In Cantagalo, a favela in Ipanema where community policing was implemented last November, the State has just launched an elevator which not only reduces residents’ need to climb endless steps past a dump, but which integrates the community with the Metro system, bureaucracy-alleviation services and several playgrounds. The State is also giving all residents title to their land and providing public housing within the community to residents who were moved in order to urbanize the neighborhood.
Our hope is that officials will continue to favour marginalized parts of the city with such projects, but never overlooking the inequality and social rifts that exist particularly in more distant parts of Rio, where the population’s most basic needs are still not covered by the State and the risk of forced evictions is very real. In terms of the social divide, however, a welcome approach is to boost interest in some areas overlooked by so-called formal society with such cultural landmarks as this, the Michael Jackson statue that many are itching to go look at.
Tiano mentions another bust statue that I’ve featured here before in a piece about the significance of the number ‘7’ and Michael. This bust is allegedly 3000 years old and was crafted by ancient Egyptians. Oddly though, it is the spitting image of Michael:
Yet another statue may have been placed in Letna Park the Czech Republic as well. Amidst protests there, officials gave the go-ahead for a life-sized bronze bust of Michael to be placed on the grounds of one of his mega-concerts in 1996 in the capital Prague, by August 29th, 2010 – in time for his 52nd birthday. I do not know if protesters were successful in halting the placement of this statue or not. Maybe readers can clue me in and even provide photos of the placed statue if any are available. I will update this post with the additional information if anyone has it.
UPDATE: In comments below Carla has said that due to opposition, the statue in Praque has still not been erected even though fans have already paid for it. The argument is that Michael was not a Czech citizen and has no connection to the Czech Republic. But of course he does. He was there and the connection with all the fans who love him is an emotional one.