Local Govt and University Expand ‘Decolonising Sculpture for Urban Social Justice’ Statue Review in Leeds

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Local government in Leeds, England, is teaming up with publicly-funded Leeds University to expand a BLM-style statues review with a report titled ‘Decolonising Sculpture for Urban Social Justice’.

The West Yorkshire city, which saw the high-profile vandalisation of a historic memorial to Queen Victoria with graffiti reading ‘BLM’ and branding her a ‘SLAG’, ‘WHORE’, and ‘SLAVE OWNER’ — inaccurately — in 2020, will use the report “in consideration of the city’s cultural strategy to make the city more inclusive overall,” according to an academic quoted by the Telegraph and Argus.

“It’s timely as there have been debates intensifying on how to address racial and ethnic inequality and how the city can work on what can be seen as an urban colonial legacy,” declared Dr Martin Zebracki, described as an associate professor of “Critical Human Geography” by the newspaper.

Zebracki appeared to hint the results of the report may be something of a foregone conclusion, explaining that “This is about how to decolonise public art.”

“We have noticed there is a desire to change to have a more inclusive public realm,” Zebracki claimed, although the earlier statues review, led by Labour politician Alison Lowe, found that actually only around 10 per cent of people who responded to a public survey “wanted some active change” to Leeds’s public monuments and memorials.

“There was a perception that lots of black people would write in and say ‘get rid of statue X or Y’… but I had lots of conversations with Black Lives Matters groups and actually people were not really that interested,” Lowe said at the time, apparently mystified by her findings.

Nevertheless, Lowe concluded that “over-celebrated Empire, Christianity and ‘great’ white men” and were “rarely diverse and inclusive”.

Presuming to speak for others, Lowe also insisted that “For black people, we live in a world where white voices and white faces and white names predominate. We don’t like it” — and claimed in her report there was a “consensus” that public-facing plaques should have a “modern refresh”.

“The Leeds report is pathetic. How does a majority supporting no change and only 7 per cent mentioning plaques equate to ‘consensus’ that plaques need updating? And they still have the gall to label Victoria, Peel & Wellington ‘potentially controversial’?” blasted Robert Poll, of the Save Our Statues Campaign, at the time.

British universities have not entirely turned their backs on statuary, however, with the University of Winchester recently unveiling a not-particularly-environmentally-friendly bronze of teen climate activist Greta Thunberg which cost almost £24,000.

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