Bordeaux: the statue of a slave degraded by an art student "sensitive to the decolonial question"

Two days after the town hall of Bordeaux announced its intention to file a complaint against X after the degradation of a statue of a freed slave, seeing it as a “likely racist” act, France 3 New Aquitainereports that a teacher warned the city’s cultural affairs department that it was in fact a “big mistake of an art student” who wanted to make a cast.

This information had already been announced the day before in a statement from the city, which explained that it had withdrawn the complaint after the student said “that no racist motivation had dictated this action”.

The discovery of the vandalized statue had moved the spirits on September 13. The slave Modeste Testas, who is represented there, was indeed covered on the head and the bust of a white material whereas it symbolizes the memory of slavery on the quays of Bordeaux, city with the slave past.

The town hall, quick to react, withdraws its complaint

The teacher’s statement put an end to all controversy. “The student did it on his own initiative. He is sensitive to the decolonial question, especially because of his origins. He is deeply anti-racist ”, laments his professor, quoted by France 3. At night, the student would have deposited approximately one centimeter of thickness of plaster on the top of the statue installed on the quays of the city. It was, from his point of view, “an act of memory”, explains the teacher, who emphasizes that “there is no degradation of the statue, the plaster goes into the water” .

The bronze statue of Modeste Testa (1765-1870) is the work of Haitian sculptor Filipo. It was inaugurated, in the presence of his Haitian descendant, on May 10, 2019, during the national day of memories of the slave trade, slavery and their abolition. This slave had been bought by two Bordeaux brothers in the 18th century and then freed.

The town hall of Bordeaux decided to withdraw its complaint, while specifying that the student had made this molding “without any prior authorization from the City”. “We cannot accept and endorse this isolated and at the very least unfortunate initiative which struck many observers attached to the memory that this statue represents”, underlines the municipal press release, which recalls “the inviolable character of monuments and works of art present in the public space and the strict respect that is due to them, in particular those honoring the memory of victims of crimes against humanity ”.

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