The display of an overturned 17th century statue of a slave trader in a museum in Bristol has reignited controversy over the monuments of troubled personalities in the UK. The statue in question, a memorial to Edward Colston, was toppled by Black Lives Matter protesters in Bristol last summer and thrown into a harbor where it has been on public display since 1895. It can now be seen in the M Shed Museum. an institution dedicated to the history of the city.
According to a report by the Guardian, members of a group called Save Our Statues are trying to see the Colston statue back in its original location. The group has organized to buy tickets to the museum in bulk to discourage visitors from seeing the statue. In one statement Save Our Statues was posted on Twitter Monday, saying the protest was “a sign of due process” and “the ad in its current format is a celebration of criminal violence and mob rule”.
The statue can be seen lying in the M Shed and is accompanied by a timeline mentioning its fall in June 2020. Historian David Olusoga said on the statue’s debut at M Shed that it is “the most important” artifact you could choose from in Britain if you wanted to tell the story of Britain’s torturous relationship with its role in the Atlantic slave trade. “
At the site of the protest and the felling of the statue, a plaque attached by an unknown party has emerged. The marking reads in part: “At this point a statue celebrating 17th century slave trader Edward Colston was thrown into the harbor by the residents of Bristol during anti-racism protests around the world.” Additionally, the plaque has lines written by 2020 Bristol City Poet Vanessa Kisuule: “In the end you just got down. / When you landed / A piece of you fell off, broke off, / And inside nothing but air. / You were hollow the whole time. “
The statue’s fall last summer reverberated through the UK art world. The artist John Akomfrah said at the time: “I’ve recorded riots since the 1980s, but I was a little stunned.” The London-based sculptor Hew Locke said ARTnews he was “amazed” by the event and added: “I would never have believed I saw anything like this in my life. This piece has been a problem for me for years. “
After it was felled, the Colston statue was temporarily replaced with a sculpture of a protester created by artist Marc Quinn. This work was removed after only 24 hours of sight, as it had not been installed via the official municipal sewers. At that time, the artist Thomas J. Price wrote an essay on the Art newspaper about the sculpture of Quinn, which is white. “A real example of allies could have been providing the financial assistance and manufacturing capabilities required of a young, local, black artist to make the temporary replacement,” Price wrote.