Fri | Aug 7, 2020

Black Jesus is a Saint - Model, son of reggae singer cast as Jesus in ‘A Last Supper’

Published:Sunday | July 5, 2020 | 12:00 AMYasmine Peru - Senior Sunday Gleaner Writer
Lorna May Wadsworth
Tafari Hinds
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In the midst of an ongoing conversation about blackness, the injustice meted out to certain folk based on race and the colour of one’s skin, in walks a modern day saviour of the world. And he’s black, Jamaican and a Saint, to boot. Tafari Hinds, a model with the Deiwght Peter-led Saint International has been immortalised in a painting, ‘A Last Supper’, which depicts him as a black Jesus. In a show of solidarity with Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, the piece is prominently displayed at the historic St Albans Cathedral in the United Kingdom, and Hinds and the painter Lorna May Wadsworth are now basking in an exciting media blitz, talking about the meaning impact of this work.

“It’s amazing! Phenomenal!” Hinds the son of reggae singer, Horace Andy, told The Sunday Gleaner. “Can you imagine that out of the hundreds of models, one is being chosen to represent a black Jesus, and he happens to be a Saint. When I told the Bishop of St Alban’s the name of my modelling agency, I had to repeat it so he could record it.”

Peters, too, could hardly contain his excitement, and his exuberance was let out in long paragraphs which sounded like one sentence. “Here we have, in 2020, when Saint is celebrating its 20th year, in this period of madness and also a time of a whole new awakening of the Civil Rights movement and people are turning to Christ and Christ is being redefined, it took a Saint to represent a Black Jesus,” Peters said.

Hinds, who is based in England, has attended the BLM protests, and has been moved. “At all the protests, I saw a lot of young people. I even saw a 2-year-old screaming ‘Black is beautiful’. I have two friends who don’t see colour and we are always arguing, but now I understand. So a shout-out to my two best mates, Clement Cornebize and Xavier Hickman who have never let a Saint boy feel excluded.”

The imposing 12 ft piece was commissioned 10 years ago by a church group, and Wadsworth told The Sunday Gleaner it took her nine months to paint. Her decision to use a Black Jesus definitely did not stem from any desire to be needlessly provocative or sensationalistic, she simply wanted to “make people question the Western myth that he [Jesus] had fair hair and blue eyes”.

Wadsworth had previously done a painting of Tafari’s head for an exhibition, and it proved to be very popular. “When I was commissioned to do this, I asked myself how I would portray Christ. The kind of idea of western artistes painting Jesus in their own image has been uncritically accepted, and I wanted people to think rather than accept the iconoclastic,” Wadsworth shared. “I knew that there is something in Tafari’s countenance that people find deeply empathetic and moving, which is the overriding quality I wanted my Christ to embody.”

Wadsworth was a bit disheartened that nobody seemed to really care about the painting at the time, and now she is experiencing a mixture of emotions. “But, most of all, I am thrilled.” In 2019, the painting made national news when the artist discovered it had been shot. The damage occurred on Christ’s right side, the same place that Longinus, a Roman centurion, pierced the body of Jesus with his spear as he hung from the cross.

Adam, a member of Wadsworth’s team, shared an anecdote about Tafari and the painting. “I took a call from a guy who told me that he teaches in a London school and had seen Lorna’s painting and wanted to know how much a print would cost. He then explained that the school had been offered a printed copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, but they had politely declined, as the scene didn’t reflect the demographic composition of the school or local catchment area. However, when he saw Tafari as Jesus, he said that this was the image he’d been looking for. It then turned out that the school is in Kennington, where Tafari lives. So they’re now talking about inviting ‘Jesus’ in to meet the children.”

Hinds, who got his start in 2001, climbed to the top of the fashion world and was the first black male model on the cover of GQ STYLE. He was also the first Caribbean male model to appear in British Vogue and has become a globetrotter, working in London, Milan, Paris, Germany and New York. Hinds is currently pursuing a career in music.

yasmine.peru@gleanerjm.com