Edward Colston: Statue marks Anti-Slavery Day with protesting artwork

Edward Colston: Statue marks Anti-Slavery Day with protesting artwork

An unclaimed art exhibition has appeared in front of the Colston Statue in the City Centre on Anti-Slavery Day.

100 Human figures have appeared in front of the statue linking Bristol’s slave-trading history with modern-day slavery.

The figures were placed in a formation to resemble the movement of slaves lying on aboard ships sent from Bristol, transported to slave plantations in the Caribbean and North America.

Outlining the figures are blocks of jobs and professions considered to be done today by modern-day slaves.

Human figures placed under Colston statue with the professions of modern-day slaves

The art has gathered social media attention with many supporting its introduction.

The Colston statue debate

The statue has been the face of controversy in recent months with many divided over if the statue should be removed.

Labour MP for Bristol West, Thangam Debbonaire, called for its removal earlier in October.

She argued the city “should not be honouring people who benefited from slavery”.

Speaking at a Black History Event in Bristol City Hall, Debbonaire said:

“Having statues of people who oppressed us is not a good thing to be saying to black people in this city.

“Edward Colston did many things, but he was not completely defined by that, and it’s an important part of saying to black people in the city ‘you are welcome’.

“I think it actually provides a good opportunity for us as a city to talk about that history”.

Thangam Debbonaire Image Credit: Chris McAndrew

The debate surrounding the removal of the statue has also been accompanied by many organisations choosing to distance themselves from the name.

In April, the Bristol Music Trust, the organisation that runs Colston Hall, announced the Hall would run under a new name following it’s transformation in 2020.

The Bristol Music Trust said:

“We want everyone to feel like they can come to the Hall and enjoy our amazing music, so when we reopen the new building in 2020, it will be with a new name.”

The organisation added:

“We believe this is about more than a sign above the door.

“We believe that the new name should reflect a new vision for the Hall and its role in the city, and we need your help to build that vision before we decide on a name.”

The new name is yet to be decided but you can have your say by clicking here

Colston Hall in Bristol City Centre

Colston Hall is not the only organisation to undergo a change in name.

Last year, Colston Primary School announced it would be renamed to Cotham Gardens Primary School.

Following the celebration of its 70th anniversary, a decision was made following debates over a name change.

Chairwoman of governors Katie Swainson Price said:

“After an open and honest debate across our school community, governors voted in line with the majority vote by stakeholders who participated in the consultation and will now look at choosing a new name for September 2018”.

These proposed changes have also been met with resistance.

In July, Bristol resident, Jeff Williams began a petition pleading against the alteration of the Colston name or the removal of his statue.

The petition states:

“We can’t rewrite history or deny Colston evil trade. What we can do is educate, not apologise, to make sure we and our visitors never forget.”

Dave Martin believes the debate should be focused towards the statue and not the Colston name.

“It’s shifting the terms of the argument, it’s not about renaming or knocking down buildings.

“It’s a question of whether we should admire this person on the pedestal, and I think the answer is clearly no.”

When asked about the resistance of its removal he said:

“It doesn’t surprise me that people are against removing it, It’s part of the wallpaper.

“People don’t really have any appreciation of what he is and what he stands for.

“Statues are put up to admire someone. I doubt everyone admires him”

Should the statue stay or go?

Members of the Bristol public have expressed support for the statue.

One Bristol local said “they shouldn’t take it down, it’s still part of the history. It’s not a good part of history as he was part of the slave trade, but it is still important”

Another said “I am totally against removing statues. As long as he stands there on the statue, it allows parents to tell their children about what an ambigious figure he was. Without Colston much of Bristol wouldn’t have been built”

However one individual did argue changes were needed “removing the statue doesn’t help at all, there needs to be new plaques and more discussion about who Colston was”

One local highlighted it’s signifcance “It should stay as it’s allowed discussion and debate, open discussion is the best thing for it”

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