Art student had ‘no racist motive’ when plastering statue of slavery in Bordeaux, city says


Bordeaux, the French city that was a transit station during the slave trade, feared racism was the cause of the disfigurement of an African slave statue when covered in what looked like paint White. When the facts came to light, the statue had been disfigured with plaster by an art student, city officials said on Tuesday.

A complaint was filed and the statue of Modeste Testas (whose original name was Al Pouessi) was immediately cleaned after the discovery of the vandalism 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 The complaint was withdrawn, but the city denounced the unauthorized act.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”.

The life-size bronze statue of a slave bought by two Bordeaux brothers in the 18th century and then freed, was discovered on Monday whitewashed to the bust. The piece was created by Haitian sculptor Caymitte Woodly, known as Filipo.

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 French National Day marking 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.


Kayleen C. Rice

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