In a move to leave its colonial past behind, the Barbados government is now all set to remove the statue of Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson from the National Heroes Square in the heart of the capital, Bridgetown.
The statue, which has stood in the city for over 200 years, will be removed on November 16, 2020, on International Day of Tolerance, a year before dropping Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State.
Announcing the decision which he described as “a step towards the healing of the Nation”, John King, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office with responsibility for Culture, said, “This is indeed an ultimate statement of confidence in who we are as a people and what we are capable of achieving.”
“As we amend the Constitution to have a Barbadian Head of State, and as a symbol of the maturity of our democracy, it is imperative that we reexamine notable elements of our colonial past. Cabinet’s decision to remove the statue is part of this process as we seek to promote national identity as part of a modern Barbados.”
The recent wave of black consciousness that swept over the western world attracted calls for lingering symbols of slavery and colonialism to be removed across the world. An online petition calling for the removal of the statue led by former journalist Alex Downes garnered thousands of signatures in Barbados.
“In a country where approx. 95 percent of the population is also black, why do we continue to proudly force ourselves to relive the traumas our people have faced by having this statue stand in Heroes Square?” Downes questioned.
The 30-year old Barbadian further called on the Government of Barbados to replace the statue with a symbol of unity which acknowledges the true work of the country’s heroes.
The statue of Nelson – a British Navy officer — was erected over two centuries ago in honor of his victory against French forces in the Valley of Trafalgar. However, Nelson’s staunch support for the Transatlantic Slave Trade has attracted tremendous criticism in recent times.
According to a letter penned by Nelson to his friend, Simon Taylor — a British plantation owner in Jamaica — in regard to slavery, he remarked: “I have ever been and shall die a firm friend to our present colonial system…neither in the field or in the Senate shall their interest be infringed whilst I have an arm to fight in their defense, or a tongue to launch my voice against the damnable and cursed doctrine of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies.”
Apart from Barbados, many people across the globe support the symbolic act of reclaiming dignity and exposing long-celebrated racists. Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago have strongly called for the removal of statues of Christopher Columbus.