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    May 23

  • 06:55 PM

Setting sails to new horizons

Leigh-Ann Worrell,

Added 05 January 2014


In a humble St Michael home, a five-foot replica of La Amistad takes pride of place in the middle of the dining table. The white masts are spotless, as was the varnished wood used to create the vessel. Brushes of green paint, representing the moss accumulated from its constant trips, reflect the thought that went into the replica. A small pair of handcuffs sits in the middle. Steeped in the symbolism of freedom, it was carved with meticulous care by former prisoner and drug runner Kurtis ‘Blow’ Norville. His name has been associated with one of the biggest local drug hauls in the late 1990s as well as other run-ins and escapes from the law. Hands which were once accomplices to crime or used to pull off prison breaks are moulding fibreglass vases and lamps, painting intricate landscapes and are at the helm of elaborate shipbuilding. Norville’s work has already received acclaim. One of his first pieces, an impressive wooden ship, received gold at the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts. Created in 2010, the Olive Bloosom has been docked at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus since July last year in celebration of the school’s 50th anniversary. Some of his other 150-plus creations have also received numerous NIFCA awards.  Released from Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) Dodds two weeks ago, the 46-year-old is determined to put his chequered past behind him and start anew with a business specializing in body kits for cars and fibreglass decorative creations. “. . . If you are in prison . . . [and] you get an opportunity to learn a trade you should learn it, [and] I take my work seriously,” he said during an interview from his home. “Prison is a place where a man can go and change if he wants to because you can’t make a man change. I was in prison for a while and I decided that I cannot afford to waste any more time . . . I have to do something constructive, so I mostly focus on my work. “Men used to tell me, ‘‘Blow’ man you like work bad.’ I told them I have to like work because this is what I have to live for when I get out. This is what I want to do. I want to perfect my skill and when people see my work they are impressed with it.” Norville started working with his hands from a young age, beginning as an apprentice to a furniture maker in My Lord’s Hill before forming an interest in mechanics. “From there I get caught up dealing with drugs,” he revealed. “I would [transport] marijuana from St Vincent to Barbados and that is the error that I made to end up in prison.” He was caught up in the drug net for three years. He and six other men were charged with “knowingly handling and trafficking cannabis with intent to supply”, according to newspaper reports on the case. “I loved the sea and I used to go fishing. I get an opportunity to go further, the thrill get me going and going until the police caught up with me,” Norville continued. “I never really used to sell it. My main part was to be there as a mechanic and make sure the boat gets from one point to another.” While that case was ongoing, Norville had another problem to deal with – a gun charge for the unlawful possession of a .9 mm gun and 13 rounds of .9 mm ammunition. He was sentenced to four years in prison. Maintaining his innocence of the gun charge, he revealed that the sentence “played with my head and I did something very stupid". “I cut out the bars and went over the wall and was caught six months after. I get caught in St Vincent and I plead guilty on the charge.” The charge was eventually dropped, and having served time for the escape and spent time on remand, Norville was released in December 2003. But as fate would have it, the marijuana case settled a few months after his release. “Due to the fact that I had just come from prison, I told myself that I am not going back again and I end up running again and was caught again on my way coming here on a boat along with six parcels of marijuana. From there I was back in prison for 13 years.” He spent most of his time in both Glendairy and Dodds as a maximum security inmate. Days went by with the same routine: eating, sleeping and reading with occasional exercise. It was during that time that Norville found a love for history – the foundation on which a lot of his work has been built. A letter to the Superintendent of Prisons would allow the talented man to pursue his interests. Initially, he stuck with vehicular bodywork, moving on to car kits and newer passions of fibreglass creations. “This [fibreglass] material does give a lot of trouble. It does bite [itch] but it don’t bother me in no kinda way. . . . Even when people who does deal with fibreglass see my vases, they don’t believe that is what it is made of,” he said with a smile. Painting came later. His house is also filled with framed artwork depicting various landscapes from snowy mountains to serene beach scenes. With no prior knowledge, Norville said he learned through observation. “I just watch the fellas painting, and I am a fella that can’t keep idle; I have to be doing something so I would work and when I come in on evening I have to do something to occupy my time, so I started painting.” Norville also wants to make sure his 18-year-old son who also spent a ten-month stint in HMP Dodds, learns from his mistakes as well. “He getting ready to work with me [in the] workshop. He was also up there so he get first-hand experience.”


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