Confronting Colonial Statues | Culture Clash
The 60th anniversary of the end of Belgian rule in the Congo is fast approaching, but Black Lives Matter protests have raised uncomfortable questions about monuments to colonial ruler Léopold II.
The Congo basin was colonised in the name of the Belgian king, who then took ownership of the ‘Congo Free State’ as his personal property.
Under his regime an estimated 10-15 million Congolese people died. Torture, forced labour and mutilation were all tools used to subjugate the people there.
However, to the Belgians Léopold II has long been presented as a glorious king. Statues erected years after his death place him high on a podium, staring confidently out on horseback.
Calls for these statues to be removed have grown since they were defaced in the recent Black Lives Matter protests in Brussels.
However, others see this as an attempt to whitewash history. Prince Laurent of Belgium, himself a direct descendant of Léopold, has defended the monuments suggesting that the king himself never visited the Congo.
A campaign to change the curriculum in the country has gained pace, with the education minister promising to expand what is taught to children about the realities of the Congo Free State.