City of Ghent removes bust of Leopold II from Zuidpark

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Today, 30 June 2020, exactly 60 years after the independence of Congo, the City of Ghent removed the bust of Leopold II from Zuidpark. Pending further recommendations within the scope of the decolonisation project, the bust will be transferred to a warehouse of the Ghent city museum STAM.

Testimonials

Before the removal of the statue, several representatives of the African diaspora and civil society took the floor. The attending politicians chose to listen to what they had to say rather than speaking themselves.

'Removing statues does not erase history, it rectifies history and makes new history that rightly calls into question dominant narratives.' 

Mathieu Charles, Belgian Network for Black Lives

'To those who claim we are importing an American problem, I say this and many other problems have been exported to America and the rest of the world since 1492.' 

Lindah Nyirenda, Ghent stage/slam poet 

A clear signal

The City of Ghent decided a week ago that the bust would be removed and that the removal would take place in public. This decision was taken at the request of the decolonisation working group, which was set up last year with the purpose of developing a participative project relating to our country’s colonial past and the obvious impact of that past on the present. The City of Ghent now gives a clear signal that there is no more room for a bust of Leopold II in the Ghent public space. Leopold II is a symbol of a system based on racism, exploitation and violence.

'Today, 30 June 2020, we are gathered here to remove this bust from Zuidpark. This symbolic action comes as a relief for the Congolese community: “Finally our voice is heard.” With this gesture, the Ghent authorities prove that they acknowledge the pain of the African diaspora and are willing to actively participate in the construction of an inclusive city where the decolonisation of the streets is possible.' 

Marie-Laure Mulayi, Chairwoman of Umoja Gent 

The next steps

The decolonisation project will continue and will not be limited to a debate on colonial symbols. Other topics that will be discussed are the role of education, the importance of the fight against racism and discrimination and knowledge of our colonial history, as well as the employment policy of the City of Ghent and the city's role at the international level. A meeting will be held in September, followed by the presentation of a full report to the city council in November 2020, containing concrete recommendations. 

'This is the first step in a long journey we have to make together.' 

Joram Kunde Boumkwo, Ghent youth worker and musician 

Contact

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