BRISTOL, England (Reuters) – A sculpture of a Black protester with her fist raised in the air has been erected in a stealthy night-time operation in place of a 17th Century English slave trader whose statue was toppled by anti-racism demonstrators in the port city of Bristol.
Edward Colston, who made a fortune from trading in West African slaves, was pulled down and thrown in the harbour of the city in southwest England last month by protesters demonstrating in the wake of the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.
The sculpture of Jen Reid, who was photographed standing on the plinth of Colston’s statue just after it was pulled down, was put up in the early hours of Wednesday by a team directed by artist Marc Quinn, the Guardian newspaper reported.
“Resident Jen Reid and I have unveiled a new temporary, public installation, ‘A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020’, on top of Edward Colston’s empty plinth in Bristol, England,” Quinn said on Instagram beside a photograph of the new work.
Quinn is best known for his statue of pregnant disabled woman Alison Lapper in London’s Trafalgar Square.
“I think it’s something the people of Bristol really appreciate seeing,” Reid told the BBC.
The mayor of Bristol said the future of what should replace Colston should be decided by the people of Bristol, though he said the sculpture of Reid was installed by a London-based artist and no permission was given for it.
But some Bristol residents praised the move.
“There is an element of poetic justice about it,” said David Hayes, a 42-year-old resident of the city.
“Replacing it with a protester who stood on the plinth at the time – it’s a very powerful image and it’s been brilliantly done, I think. So, yeah, hopefully it might stay.”
Last month, Bristol said Colston’s statue, now retrieved from the water, would be exhibited in a museum and displayed alongside Black Lives Matter placards from the recent protest so the 300-year story of slavery and the fight for racial equality could be better understood.
(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Alison Williams)