Bristol-based duo Massive Attack have responded to this week’s illegal removal of a statue in the likeness of Edward Colston. The Bristolian politician, philanthropist and slave-trader’s legacy has been irreparably tarnished after the statue was subsequently hurled into the River Avon. This prompted the Brit Award-winning group to propose on Twitter, “The Colston statue should never have been a public monument. Its history could have been understood in a museum. #colston.”
The tweet, shared on their official account @MassiveAttackUK, was published alongside another post declaring, “The elevation of a slave trader clashed badly with our civic identity,” displaying a powerful photograph of a Black protester wearing a #BlackLivesMatter face mask, pressing his knee into the statue’s neck. The pose mirrors that of the white police officer who had asphyxiated the unarmed Black man George Floyd for almost nine minutes, an act of police brutality that has caused outrage and widespread protest across the world this week.
Indeed it was in response to Floyd’s death that this particular protest centred on the Colston statue. A 17th century politician of historical significance to the city, it was at this time that his past misdemeanours could no longer be ignored. Reflecting on the recent events, Massive Attack further asserted, in an especially poignant and poetic flourish, “A philanthropy derived from crimes against humanity is as hollow as the statue itself.”
The elevation of a slave trader clashed badly with our civic identity.
— Massive Attack (@MassiveAttackUK) June 7, 2020
The legacy of Edward Colston had originally served as namesake of Bristol’s Colston Hall, which will now undergo a name change this coming autumn, according to the venue’s management team. The Hall has announced that the new name will “reflect the unity and joy that experiencing live music together brings.” Posting a lengthy series of tweets, they properly outlined the reasoning behind the historic venue’s name change.
It did address, however, previous controversy surrounding the venue’s name, revealing that “A new name was originally planned to be announced in Spring 2020, following a thorough and in-depth consultation process carried out with over 4,000 people from communities all across the city.”
Yet current events seem to have rapidly accelerated that timescale.