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On Statues that Glorify Slavery – Reply to Nad Sivaramen

11.06.2020

 Yesterday L’Express Editor Nad Sivaramen said the anti-racism protests in Bristol that toppled the statue to the glory of slave dealer and Conservative MP, Edward Colston, and tipped it into the “larad” could have been “moins barbare”. He calls the action “vandalisme”. He also says it could have been got rid of in a “plus democratique” way. 


Let’s kick off by replying to his less extreme criticism. The statue, Mr. Sivaramen, was put up without democracy. You had to be a male then even to vote, even to be elected, let alone to put up a statue. You had to own property. You had to be 21 years old. So, the criticism should be levelled against the lack of democracy in erecting such a statue in the first place. The slaves he was dealing in, and keeping in chains, had no say whatsoever. They were silenced by brute force. So, it is not even ex equo on the democracy of erection and toppling. But, there are more serious issues in the content than in the form of decision-taking.


Who exactly is more “barbare”? Who exactly does more “vandalisme”? Is it a dealer in slaves, also a pro-slave-labour ideologue, like Colston? Was he not the “vandal”, Mr. Sivaramen? Why criticise a group of protestors bringing down a statue to the glory of a crime against humanity? Why the extreme language of “barbare” and “vandalisme”? Why?


You could do well to listen to Trevor Noah’s gentle reflections on the demonstrations in the USA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4amCfVbA_c  or the oration by Kimberly Jones the next day athttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llci8MVh8J4


You could do well to take heed of Banksy’s proposal: fish the old statue out of “larad”, and incorporate it into a new one created to the glory of the people who finally brought it down this month in the year 2020, and erect it in the same place. Then no-one loses. You get to remember your history, in case you forget it, in the face of these “tentative d’effacer l’histoire”. (Banksy’s sketch for new statue appended.)  


And perhaps you could read what Lalit has on its website in 2014 in an article, by chance about a previous L’Expresseditor: “And the pro-slavery ideologue D’Epinay still stands domineeringly over the Company Gardens 179 years since the end of slavery. It is perhaps time to transplant these statues, perhaps to the back corner of some garden, or into some museum.” https://www.lalitmauritius.org/en/newsarticle/1639/the-weight-of-colonization-in-the-supportofde-lestrac-candidacy-for-oif/


There is an urgent need to transfer this statue of notorious anti-abolitionist Adrien d’Epinay somewhere else than still dominating the Company Gardens. In a new place, it could bear a large inscription of his role as rear-guard defender of slavery. The same goes for the other relics glorifying colonialism. 


Lindsey Collen, for LALIT.