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PARIS (AP) – Bordeaux, the French city that was a transit station for the slave trade, feared racism was behind the disfigurement of an African slave statue that was covered in what looked like to white paint. Instead, the statue was disfigured with plaster by an art student, the city said on Tuesday.
A complaint was filed and the statue of Modeste Testas, whose original name was Al Pouessi, was immediately cleaned up after the vandalism was discovered on Monday.
On Tuesday, the city of Bordeaux announced that an art student without a racist motive was behind the whiting of the statue, whose head, arms and shawl were covered in plaster. The complaint was withdrawn, but the city denounced the unauthorized act.
“The student (said) that no racist motivation was at the origin of this action,” said a statement, without identifying the student. He added that “this isolated initiative” which disrespects art is unacceptable, “especially those which honor the memory of victims of crimes against humanity”.
Modeste Testas, apparently Ethiopian, was bought as a teenager in 1781 by two Bordeaux brothers and then taken to their sugar cane plantation in the Caribbean. The statue of the quay overlooking the port was inaugurated in May 2019 on the occasion of the national day of slavery, the slave trade and its abolition.
Bordeaux and the French port of Le Havre, further north, were part of a slave trade triangle that sent black captives from Africa to slave owners across the Atlantic Ocean.