March 26, 2023

Lord Nelson statute defaced in Barbados

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BY GEORGE ALLEYNE From Caribbean Life

Apparently having had enough of the talking and calls for its removal, an unknown person or group splashed the Nelson Statue in paint the colours of the national flag to greet Barbadians one day before the 51st anniversary of independence.

Barbados celebrated the day it began the next 50 years as an independent state last Thursday, but those going about their business on Wednesday morning were greeted with the 200-year-old statue defaced with blue and gold paint.

There was also a hand-written sign placed at the bottom of the monument stating, “Lord Nelson will Fall. This racist white supremacist who would rather die than see black persons free, stands proudly in our nation’s capital. Nelson must go! Fear not Barbadians have spoken, politicians have failed us.”

Government intervened and had it cleaned and restored in time for the next day 51st anniversary independence observations.

Since 1813 it was there, an imposing monument on an area called Trafalgar Square across the road from Parliament and at the head of Broad Street, the main thoroughfare of Barbados’ capital Bridgetown, but following independence in 1966 many Bajans began questioning its relevance to the island’s people of over 90 percent Blacks, descendants of slaves.

Many have argued that Vice-Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson statue has no place in an independent Barbados because he did nothing for the island, and supported slavery.

Noted Barbadian historian Trevor Marshall earlier this year stated, “every primary and secondary school child in Barbados now knows that Horatio Nelson fought against William Wilberforce, who spent all of his father’s fortune in his campaign to abolish the heinous enslavement of Blacks”.

Barbadian scholar Richard Drayton stated days ago that as an active part of the British Navy protecting slave traders, it is fair to say, “he (Nelson) certainly took white supremacy as a natural order to be defended. And posthumously he did play a part in anti-abolition politics: in 1807, at the climax of the debates in Britain about abolishing the trade, a private letter Nelson had sent to the Jamaican planter magnate Simon Taylor in June 1805 was republished by Cobbett in which Nelson had denounced “the damnable and cursed doctrine of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies.”

Another historian and scholar, University of the West Indies Vice-Chancellor Hilary Beckles stated in September, “the 85,000 enslaved Blacks entrapped in Barbados only knew of Nelson as leader of the naval power dedicated to keeping them in slavery. The 15,000 slave owners in Barbados who welcomed Nelson in the Caribbean and celebrated his presence, did so because their greatest fear was black freedom.” Beckles insisted that Nelson was the sworn enemy of Barbados’ blacks.

“The enslaved Black community was not invited, therefore, to be a part of the decision made by enslavers to erect the Nelson monument in Bridgetown in 1813. “

Over the years repeated governments of Barbados have displayed reluctance in moving the statue from its dominating spot.

It is suspected that administrations of this tourism dependent economy fear its removal might affect visitors from its main tourist mark, the UK, where he is still regarded with reverence.

The government of former prime minister Owen Arthur in 1999 renamed Trafalgar Square to Heroes Square in celebration of outstanding Barbadians. Authorities also turned the statue around, ensuring that it no longer looks down on Barbadians in the busy commercial area, but faces the back of a building.

Government also commissioned a study whose charter included looking at the relevance of Nelson to Barbados’ history but despite the report submitted in 2000 recommending that the vice-admiral’s statue be removed and placed at the seaside, nothing was done.

In the 1980s, not too long after calypso legend Mighty Gabby released the song, ‘Take down Nelson’, garbage and manure were placed at the base of the statue as a form of protest.

Last week’s splashing of paint is likely to be just another protest in a line of more to come, until a government of Barbados becomes brave enough to ‘Take down Nelson.’

IMAGE: Barbadian scholar, Richard Drayto

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