Thursday, 30 August 2007

London's statue status


Yesterday a statue of Nelson Mandela went up in Parliament Square, and it got me thinking. In a city with more statues than dentists, at what point do we start reevaluating the ones that are already here?

I mean logic would tell you that, on a practical level, if this city keeps putting up statues at the rate it has been they’ll be no room left in the public parks for anyone to walk around. But on a more sentimental level, one has to note that the kinds of people we’re chiseling into stone today are quite different from the people we immortalized a century ago.

Take the new Mandela statue for instance. When I went to visit it last night I saw that it faces a statue of Jan Smuts, who was the South African prime minister at the inception of white rule. Winston Churchill, perhaps the most well-known statue in the square today, helped to draw up the du-jour segregation plan at the outset of South Africa’s independence.