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History

Battle over memorials

Dealing with a problematic colonial or racial past requires a nuanced approach rather than an attempt to “correct” historical wrongs by tearing down old statues and erecting new ones.

 

India Gate was originally designed as a war memorial dedicated to Indian soldiers killed in the First World War and other wars such as the Afghan War. The canopy served as a memorial to George V of England. Indians had no real choice when it came to their participation in the Great War during the Raj.
India Gate was originally designed as a war memorial dedicated to Indian soldiers killed in the First World War and other wars such as the Afghan War. The canopy served as a memorial to George V of England. Indians had no real choice when it came to their participation in the Great War during the Raj.Photo: The Hindu Photo Archives
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Protesters calling for the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes, outside Oriel College at the University of Oxford on June 9, 2020.
Protesters calling for the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes, outside Oriel College at the University of Oxford on June 9, 2020.Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP
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The statue  of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the largest Confederate statue remaining in the U.S., being removed by a construction team in Richmond, Virginia, on September 8, 2021. Other statues that were deemed racial in character were removed from the Capitol, Washington, D.C. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, said: “They are an affront to the highest ideals of America. They pay homage to hate, not heritage, they must be removed.”
The statue of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the largest Confederate statue remaining in the U.S., being removed by a construction team in Richmond, Virginia, on September 8, 2021. Other statues that were deemed racial in character were removed from the Capitol, Washington, D.C. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, said: “They are an affront to the highest ideals of America. They pay homage to hate, not heritage, they must be removed.”Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/REUTERS
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Protesters throw a statue of the slave trader Edward Colston into the harbour in Bristol, U.K., during a Black Lives Matter rally on June 7, 2020, in response to the recent killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, U.S.
Protesters throw a statue of the slave trader Edward Colston into the harbour in Bristol, U.K., during a Black Lives Matter rally on June 7, 2020, in response to the recent killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, U.S.Photo: Ben Birchall/PA via AP
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August 22,1991: Protesters removing the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Bolshevik secret police, which eventually became the KGB, from Lubyanka Square in Moscow.
August 22,1991: Protesters removing the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Bolshevik secret police, which eventually became the KGB, from Lubyanka Square in Moscow.Photo: Dimitry Borko/commons.wikipedia.org
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The railway tracks from where hundreds of thousands of people were directed to the gas chambers to be murdered inside the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau or Auschwitz II in Oswiecim, Poland, a 2019 photograph.
The railway tracks from where hundreds of thousands of people were directed to the gas chambers to be murdered inside the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau or Auschwitz II in Oswiecim, Poland, a 2019 photograph.Photo: Markus Schreiber/AP
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A commemorative plate at Birkenau. Modern Germany makes atonements through monuments that are dedicated to the innumerable victims of the Holocaust. Such monuments, like the bleak concentration camps and others in the cityscape, pay homage to the unnamed and unidentified victims. They capture the chilling sombreness of a vast graveyard and evoke the merciless and diabolical killing machine, a blot forever on the nation’s conscience.
A commemorative plate at Birkenau. Modern Germany makes atonements through monuments that are dedicated to the innumerable victims of the Holocaust. Such monuments, like the bleak concentration camps and others in the cityscape, pay homage to the unnamed and unidentified victims. They capture the chilling sombreness of a vast graveyard and evoke the merciless and diabolical killing machine, a blot forever on the nation’s conscience.Photo: Getty Images
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Barbed wire fences at Auschwitz on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, on January 27, 2018.
Barbed wire fences at Auschwitz on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, on January 27, 2018.Photo: Czarek Sokolowski/AP
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The Cecil Rhodes statue high up on the facade of Oriel College in Oxford, on February 5, 2016. The critic Philip Godwin, while conceding Rhodes’ “despicable colonial behaviour”, maintained that Rhodes was “no 19th century Hitler: He wasn’t so much a freak as a man of his time.... Rhodes ... was no worse than the white settlers in North America, South America and Australia.”
The Cecil Rhodes statue high up on the facade of Oriel College in Oxford, on February 5, 2016. The critic Philip Godwin, while conceding Rhodes’ “despicable colonial behaviour”, maintained that Rhodes was “no 19th century Hitler: He wasn’t so much a freak as a man of his time.... Rhodes ... was no worse than the white settlers in North America, South America and Australia.”Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP
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Nicholas Brown Jr (1769-1841), painted by Chester Harding. Brown’s father, who was a slave trader, was a co-founder of Brown University. Some institutions such as Brown University have acknowledged their colonial and racial past.
Nicholas Brown Jr (1769-1841), painted by Chester Harding. Brown’s father, who was a slave trader, was a co-founder of Brown University. Some institutions such as Brown University have acknowledged their colonial and racial past.Photo: Brown University Portrait Collection
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March 2003: South African President Nelson Mandela (left) dances with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, at the end of a special ceremony in Pretoria to mark the handing over of the final volumes of the TRC’s report.
March 2003: South African President Nelson Mandela (left) dances with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, at the end of a special ceremony in Pretoria to mark the handing over of the final volumes of the TRC’s report.Photo: The Hindu Photo Archives
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May 27, 1919: (From left) U.K. Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando, French Prime Ministers Georges Clemenceau and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference, which decided on the terms of peace after the First World War. While Wilson helped establish the League of Nations, he was also accused of promoting a policy of segregation and racial injustice.
May 27, 1919: (From left) U.K. Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando, French Prime Ministers Georges Clemenceau and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference, which decided on the terms of peace after the First World War. While Wilson helped establish the League of Nations, he was also accused of promoting a policy of segregation and racial injustice.Photo: Edward N. Jackson/U.S. Army Signal Corps
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