Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Still as Statues (or good guy? bad guy?)

We are lucky here in the British Isles. 

We take so much for granted. We have been born in a wealthy country.

But as comedian Frankie Boyle succinctly pointed out, we have not been born in a wealthy country, we have been born in a getaway car and the victims have been chasing us ever since.

Our conscience is finally catching up with the consequences of our colonialist history.

In facing up to it and trying to make amends, we will have to make decisions about retaining or removing our colonialist statues and street names among other things.

Some of us may not be too happy if a decision goes against what we had hoped for. Therefore we need to be prepared to work together to continue educating both ourselves and our children about racism regardless.

If we remove the statues for example, what would be the best way to prevent our children and our youth from forgetting our history and just repeating the same old mistakes later in life like we did?

If we retain them, can we erect statues of our black and ethnic leaders and activists right alongside those of Colston, Dundas, Robert E. Lee, Rhodes and the likes? Would this counteract the racist attitudes that many of those problematic historic statues represent; one root of the problem being glorification of that history, not recognition/denial of it?

Remember. This is our history and we forget it at our peril.

What I have seen in the Middle East is that it’s often within the younger generation that fundamentalism and racism on both sides is resurfacing. A friend of mine who has been living and working in Croatia since before the start of the 1990s Balkans war and the breakup of the former Yugoslavia has said much the same thing. It is among "those who are too young to remember what happened” that intolerance is taking hold.

I have a colleague whose teenage daughter had recently started an online petition to ensure racism awareness is taught in schools. She said that in all her high school years she had not one single lesson or lecture on racism. The UK media (BBC) reports that racism is still “alive and kicking” in our primary (junior) and secondary (high) schools.

“History is here for us to remember our faults and learn by them. We [historians] are not here to erase the nasty history and leave the good stuff to remember.” (Lenny Low, historian). It’s when we remember our history, no matter how painful it may be that we, and our children understand and learn from past mistakes.

The wheels are coming off our getaway car. Let’s make a good job of crashing it productively, with respect and understanding, a bit of dignity and with a smile.

New Work launched for Summer 2020.

Still as Statues - mixed media collage 37x30cm

Citizens of Peace - mixed media collage 36x30cm

Good Guy? Bad Guy? - digital composition 36x30cm