PARIS (AP) — Bordeaux, the French city that was a transit station in the slave trade, feared that racism was behind the disfiguring of an African slave statue that was covered in what looked like white paint. Instead, the statue was disfigured with plaster by an art student, the city said Tuesday.
A legal complaint was filed and the statue of Modeste Testas, whose original name was Al Pouessi, was immediately cleaned after the discovery Monday of the vandalism.
On Tuesday, the city of Bordeaux announced that an art student with no racist motive was behind the whiting of the statue, whose head, arms and shawl were covered in plaster. The complaint was withdrawn, but the city denounced the unauthorized act.
“The student (said) that no racist motivation was behind this action,” a statement said, without identifying the student. It added that “this isolated initiative” which disrespects art is unacceptable, “particularly those that honor the memory of victims of crimes against humanity.”
Modeste Testas, apparently Ethiopian, was bought as a teenager in 1781 by two brothers from Bordeaux then taken to their sugar plantation in the Caribbean. The statue on the quai overlooking the port had been inaugurated in May 2019 on France’s national day marking slavery, the slave trade and its abolition.
Bordeaux and the French port of Le Havre, further north, were part of a triangle for the slave trade that sent captive Black people from Africa to slave owners across the Atlantic Ocean.