Damage - The fall of Edward Colston's statue
The statue of Bristol slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down on 7th June 2020 during protests in response to the killing of George Floyd. As a Bristolian I could only watch events, and their aftermath, from a distance due to the Covid travel restrictions. A friend in Bristol kept me up to date with local news in the weeks after. She shared her amusement at the “skid marks” that she encountered on her walk to work caused by the statue being dragged through the streets on its journey to the harbour.
I asked my friend to photograph the damage Colston’s statue had done to the streets of Bristol and used these images to make a series of drawings. I used these as a basis for a set of A2 collages plotting the statue’s journey, highlighting this damage in red. Alongside this, I made a series of smaller drawings and collages based on collected images of the events of that day. These collages record the forms and colours of placards, ropes, splashing water, thrown eggs, graffiti and damage to the statue and its plinth.
Following the abolition of slavery in the UK, 135 Bristol merchants involved in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade were compensated for lack of earnings and property. Their compensation, or damages, equated to £2 billion in today’s terms.
It seemed appropriate to give the project the title “Damage”, with all the ambiguity the word has to offer. Several of the 7th June protesters have been charged with criminal damage for bringing down the statue of Edward Colston, but I think we need to consider that sometimes there is a very thin line between damage and repair.
Many thanks to gert lush Bristol resident Ruth Hunt for her careful and generous assistance in this project.
Below – Link to text from “Colston’s Shadow”, SoAD blog, 17th June 2020.