BRISTOL: A statue of a slave trader toppled by anti-racism protesters in Britain last month was replaced on Wednesday — without permission — with a sculpture of a black woman who helped pull it down.
The new statue, showing Black Lives Matter (BLM) protester Jen Reid with her fist raised, occupies the plinth where the Edward Colston likeness stood before crowds threw it into Bristol harbour in southwest England.
Entitled “A Surge of Power” by artist Marc Quinn, the new statue was erected without the knowledge of Bristol City Council.
Reid attended the unveiling and told The Guardian newspaper that it was “just incredible”.
“This is going to continue the conversation. I can’t see it coming down in a hurry,” she said.
The local authority had said previously that any decision to replace the Colston statue would be taken locally, a view reinforced by Bristol mayor Marvin Rees on Wednesday.
“The sculpture that has been installed today was the work and decision of a London-based artist. It was not requested and permission was not given for it to be installed,” he said in a statement.
“The future of the plinth and what is installed on it must be decided by the people of Bristol.”
The council announced last month it will set up a commission to discover the “true history” of Bristol, one of the British cities most prominently involved with the slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Colston’s statue had occupied the plinth since 1895 before being taken down by BLM protesters who took to the streets following the killing of African American George Floyd by police in the US state of Minnesota in May.
His death helped fuel global protests, including in the UK, where much of the focus of demonstrations has been on Britain’s colonial past.
Colston was a 17th century slave trader and Conservative MP whose company forcibly moved large numbers of West Africans.
A native of Bristol, his name is commemorated in many landmarks across the city.
The impact of the march in Bristol has seen calls for other statues to be taken down, including that of colonialist Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University’s Oriel College.
There have also been counter-demonstrations to protect some statues, including one of wartime leader Winston Churchill in London and the founder of the Scout movement, Robert Baden-Powell, in Poole on England’s south coast.
Ripples from the Bristol protest have been felt elsewhere in the UK including the south coast city of Brighton and Hove, which has pledged to work towards becoming an “anti-racist city”.
Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2020