Banksy suggests replacement for Edward Colston statue

Banksy says Edward Colston statue should be put back on its Bristol plinth surrounded by sculptures of protestors pulling it down to keep ‘everyone happy’

  • Banksy unveiled artwork inspired by activists who pulled down Colston statue 
  • Image shows state toppling backwards as four people pull it down with ropes 
  • Graffiti artist added their actions on a ‘famous day’ should be ‘commemorated’

Banksy has suggested the toppled statue of Edward Colston should be put back on its plinth in Bristol surrounded by sculptures of protesters pulling it down.

The graffiti artist unveiled a new piece of artwork inspired by activists who tore down a bronze statue of the 17th-century slave trader in an Instagram post today.  

Alongside the image, which shows a statue close to toppling backwards as four people pull it down with ropes, Banksy said the moment should be ‘commemorated’.  

In a caption, he wrote: ‘What should we do with the empty plinth in the middle of Bristol? Here’s an idea that caters for both those who miss the Colston statue and those who don’t.

Banksy has unveiled a new piece of artwork (pictured) inspired by protesters who toppled the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol on Sunday

Protesters tied ropes around the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol city centre, before tearing it to the ground on Sunday 

‘We drag him out the water, put him back on the plinth, tie cable round his neck and commission some life size bronze statues of protestors in the act of pulling him down.

‘Everyone happy. A famous day commemorated.’  

The statue was toppled during an anti-racism demonstration in Banksy’s home city of Bristol this weekend and was eventually rolled into the city’s harbour. 

Footage from the rally shows demonstrators heaving the metal monument down with ropes before cheering and dancing around it.

Boris Johnson condemned their actions as a ‘criminal act’, as Avon and Somerset Police confirmed a decision was made not to intervene. 

Others have suggested the controversial torn-down statue should be replaced with a tribute to prominent civil rights campaigner Paul Stephenson, 83.

More than 18,000 people have signed a petition calling for a statue of Mr Stephenson to be installed on the now-empty plinth since the controversial Colston sculpture was removed this weekend.   

Alongside the image, which shows a statue close to toppling backwards as four people pull it down with ropes, Banksy said their actions should be ‘commemorated’

Mr Stephenson led the Bristol Bus Boycott in 1963 after a company refused to employ black drivers and conductors. The 60-day protest eventually led to the company revoking its colour bar.

A year later, the campaigner refused to leave a pub until he was served – activism which was pivotal in paving the way for the first Race Relations Act.   

It has also been suggested the city should install a memorial to the thousands of West Africans who died aboard ships during Colston’s time as Deputy Governor of the Royal African Company from 1680 to 1692. 

The Company had complete control of Britain’s slave trade, as well as its gold and Ivory business, with Africa and the forts on the coast of west Africa. 

Others have suggested the controversial torn-down statue should be replaced with a tribute to prominent civil rights campaigner Paul Stephenson (pictured)

 The statue was toppled during an anti-racism demonstration in Banksy’s home city of Bristol this weekend and was eventually rolled into the city’s harbour

Pictured: The bronze statue falls into the water in Bristol harbour after being dragged through the city’s streets by demonstrators

During his tenure at the Company, Colston’s ships transported around 80,000 slaves from Africa to the Caribbean and America. 

Around 20,000 of them, including some 3,000 or more children, died during the transatlantic journeys. 

Historian Dr Roger Ball told the Huffington Post the plinth should pay tribute to a ‘collective of slaves and Bristolian abolitionists.’

‘I’d love to see, in Britain, recognition of the slaves who abolished slavery,’ he said.

‘There are a lot of figures who are not known about in British history who did amazing things and had an incredible effect. It wasn’t just individuals – it was whole networks of political and religious people.’ 

The Edward Colston statue, sculpted by John Cassidy, was erected in 1895 and has been a subject of controversy in recent years.  

The toppling of the monument on Sunday has led to criticism of more than 60 statues across the UK by Black Lives Matter activists.   

Banksy showed his support for the Black Lives Matter movement in his previous Instagram post on Saturday, of a painting of a vigil candle burning an American flag 

In the post, he wrote: ‘At first I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue’

The identity of Banksy has long been a closely-guarded secret, but that has not stopped him from becoming one of the most prolific street artists of the 21st century, gaining attention for his politically charged works.

He has publicly expressed his support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has escalated over the past two weeks following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.  

Mr Floyd died after a white police officer held him down by pressing his knee into his neck for almost nine minutes in Minneapolis on May 25. His death has sparked days of protests around the world. 

Banksy showed his support for the Black Lives Matter movement in his previous Instagram post on Saturday, of a painting of a vigil candle burning an American flag.

In the post, he wrote: ‘At first I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue.

‘But why would I do that? It’s not their problem, it’s mine.’

He continued: ‘People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system. Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. The faulty system is making their life a misery, but it’s not their job to fix it. They can’t – no-one will let them in the apartment upstairs.

‘This is a white problem. And if white people don’t fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in.’ 

Edward Colston: Slave trader, philanthropist and a son of Bristol

The Edward Colston statue in Bristol was pulled down by demonstrators on Sunday 

Edward Colston was born to a wealthy merchant family in Bristol, 1636.

After working as an apprentice at a livery company he began to explore the shipping industry and started up his own business.

He later joined the Royal African Company and rose up the ranks to Deputy Governor.

The Company had complete control of Britain’s slave trade, as well as its gold and Ivory business, with Africa and the forts on the coast of west Africa.

During his tenure at the Company his ships transported around 80,000 slaves from Africa to the Caribbean and America.

Around 20,000 of them, including around 3,000 or more children, died during the journeys.

During Colston’s life, slavery was being actively encouraged by King Charles II, with many European countries taking part in the trade.  

Colston’s brother Thomas supplied the glass beads that were used to buy the slaves.

Colston became the Conservative MP for Bristol in 1710 but stood only for one term, due to old age and ill health.

Historian and broadcaster David Olusoga said one of the main problems the statue caused was that people did not understand why it was a source of upset for many in the city.

‘This is a city that is about 14% BAME with a statue of somebody who was not just a slave trader, he was involved in the Royal Africa Company, the company that trafficked more people into slavery than any in British history,’ he told BBC News.

‘The fact that it has not been seen as a problem for such a long time, that so many people are confused as to why the statue offends and upsets so many people, has been the problem.’

Colston donated money to causes in and around Bristol before his death in 1721 – including to the city’s churches, founded almshouses, Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital School, and founding a religious school for boys.

According to Historic England, his involvement in the slave trade was the source of much of the money which he bestowed in the city.

Due to his philanthropy, Colston’s legacy has been honoured by the city he once called home, where streets, memorials and buildings bear his name.

An inscription on the statue, which was built in 1895, read: ‘Erected by citizens of Bristol as a memorial of one of the most virtuous and wise sons of their city.’

Following Colston’s death in the 18th century, he was described as ‘the brightest example of Christian liberality that this age has produced’. 

His charitable efforts helped inspire philanthropists in future generations, today the Dolphin Society provides help to vulnerable and elderly people who wish to remain independent. 

The society says it is ‘seeking to emulate the charitable endeavours of Edward Colston,’ but distances itself from the ‘evils of slavery, both in the days of Colston and in the appalling levels of modern day slavery’.

A statue was erected in his honour as well as other buildings named after him, including Colston Hall. 

Campaign group Countering Colston has called for an end to Bristol ‘publicly celebrating’ the controversial figure, and for the city to recognise the ‘true history of transatlantic slavery, colonialism and exploitation’.

An 11,000-strong petition said the statue of Colston had ‘no place’ in Bristol’s ‘beloved’ city centre.

In a victory for campaigners, Colston Hall – Bristol’s largest concert hall – announced in 2017 it would be re-branding, while a school formerly known as Colston’s Primary School was renamed last year. 

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