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Statues of ‘old white men’ like the Duke of Wellington could be destroyed, Welsh government warns


Statues of historic “old white men”, such as Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington, could be removed from public view in Wales to “straighten out the historical narrative” and avoid offending a “diverse modern audience”.

Monuments have been subject to an audit in Wales since the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, when a statue of slave trader Thomas Picton was removed from Cardiff City Hall.

The audit’s subsequent Wales Anti-Racism Action Plan will publish guidance this month and could name monuments to be moved in a bid to acknowledge “historic injustices” such as the legacy of the slave trade, the Telegraph reports.

The plan is an effort to enhance the positive impacts of minority communities in Wales and change the ‘alarming’ lack of diversity within public commemorations.

Audit results published in 2021 named Welsh statues of white men “connected with the slave trade and the British Empire”, including Welsh explorer Henry Morton Stanley, whom the audit found to have committed crimes against black people.

The audit identified 209 objects that represent or paths named after historical figures with direct involvement in the slave trade.

The statue of Sir Thomas Picton was removed from Cardiff City Hall in 2020 due to its links to the slave trade.

The statue of Sir Thomas Picton was removed from Cardiff City Hall in 2020 due to its links to the slave trade.

He also highlighted statues of historical figures such as Admiral Lord Nelson, Sir Francis Drake and the Duke of Wellington, who he said was opposed to abolishing the slave trade.

It identified 209 statues, street names and other monuments commemorating people who were ‘directly involved’ in the slave trade as heroes.

The audit, led by Gaynor Legall, found that commemorations of people linked to the slave trade are often shown without any accompanying context.

Without this, the report said, the figures are presented solely as models to follow.

The investigation also found that there were few Welshmen of black or Asian heritage commemorated in Wales.

However, the audit uncovered commemorations of anti-slavery activists across Wales, such as Henry Richard in Tregaron, street names for Samuel Romilly, and the Pantycelyn dormitories at Aberystwyth University.

Following the publication of the audit results, the Welsh Government mandated the establishment of the Wales Anti-Racism Action Plan, which seeks to address racism in Wales, ‘eliminate’ hate crime and support ethnic minority groups.

One of its listed objectives is to “work with public bodies to fully recognize their responsibility…to establish the correct historical narrative, to promote and deliver a balanced, authentic and decolonized account of the past.”

The draft guide issued by the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for the Arts, Dawn Bowden, is currently under consultation with a final version to be published later this month.

He previously told the Welsh Parliament: ‘There are many such commemorations in Wales, and past decisions about who or what to honour, decisions that were often made by a small elite, remain highly visible in our public spaces.

“Many of them add character to our surroundings and, by offering a visible reminder of people and events from the past, they can boost historical research.

“But, as the audit of the commemoration in Wales has shown, such research can sometimes lead us to dark places in our past, especially where figures linked to the slave trade and colonial exploitation are literally placed on a pedestal.”

The Duke of Wellington is one of the problematic historical figures highlighted by the Welsh Audit

The Duke of Wellington is one of the problematic historical figures highlighted by the Welsh Audit

Admiral Lord Nelson is also said to have opposed the abolition of the slave trade.

Admiral Lord Nelson is also said to have opposed the abolition of the slave trade.

The final guidance issued is not legally binding, but is merely intended as best practice guidance.

Ms Bowden has stressed that she does not want to censor British history by removing statues, but rather to ensure they are placed appropriately and given context to allow people to learn about past figures, while acknowledging their part in the horrible ocean liner. slave trade and atrocities committed by the British Empire.

But it could lead to more statue removals following the demolition of a 19th-century slave trader statue at Cardiff Town Hall in 2020.

The statue of Sir Thomas Picton was photographed being boxed up and shielded from public view before its removal after councilors voted on the issue.

During the meeting, councilors said Picton’s ‘abhorrent’ behavior as Governor of Trinidad meant he ‘did not deserve a place in the Heroes of Wales collection’with 57 rulings in favor of the removal of the statue, five votes against and nine abstentions.

Picton was a British Army officer killed during the Battle of Waterloo and his statue stood on the building for 104 years.

But Picton was also known as the ‘tyrant of Trinidad’ who directly used the slave trade to amass his wealth and was even found guilty of ordering the torture of a 14-year-old mixed-race girl, Luisa Calderón, in 1806.

After the initial audit results were released, First Minister for Wales Mark Drakeford said: “While the tragic murder of George Floyd occurred nearly 4,000 miles away, it sparked global action that shed light on inequality. race in today’s society”.

‘That inequality also exists in Welsh society and we must work for a more equal Wales.

‘To help us do this, we need a clear understanding of the legacies of the slave trade and the British Empire.

‘This audit provides important evidence that helps us establish an honest picture of our history.

‘This is not about rewriting our past or naming and shaming. It is about learning from the events of the past.

‘It is an opportunity for us to establish a mature relationship with our history and find a heritage that we can all share.

“This is the first stage of a much larger work that will consider how we move forward with this information as we seek to honor and celebrate our diverse communities.”

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