Here we go again – the bogus argument that removing statues is “censoring history”, as parroted by Gavin Williamson and some bloke at the Policy Exchange thinktank (Oxford college criticised for refusal to remove Cecil Rhodes statue, 20 五月). Let us remind ourselves why statues and monuments are erected – to celebrate a person or an event. That is why Rhodes’ statue is on the facade of Oriel College. It does not record history; that is in archives, documents, imagery, books and minds. History persists and is not censored, erased or changed by the removal of a few statues.
I am writing on behalf of the Oxford Zimbabwe Arts Partnership (OZAP), a team of Zimbabweans and citizens of Oxford. We formed to offer a constructive, forward-looking artistic response to the debate over the future of the Rhodes statue on Oriel College.
We are very disappointed that the college is not following its own wishes, that of the majority of commission members and of the leader of Oxford city council to remove the statue. We proposed a creative repositioning as part of a new installation, including a statue celebrating African liberation made by a leading Zimbabwean sculptor and a further artwork designed online by young people collaborating between Oxford and Zimbabwe to represent our global future.
This installation would not have denied Britain’s imperial past, but engaged with it in a creative, thought-provoking way that was to be combined with an educational partnership between the university and the local Blackbird Leys African School.
We hope that a future British government will amend the planning regulations to make such modern reinterpretations of our history more possible.
Convener, Oxford Zimbabwe Arts Partnership