Denmark unveiled their first public statue of a black woman Saturday at the Danish West India Warehouse in Copenhagen, according to a statement released by the artists.
Artists Jeannette Ehlers and La Vaughn Belle created a 23-feet sculpture that showcases a woman sitting bold and tall in a wide chair. Like a true queen, her hair is wrapped and her posture is strong. She is holding a torch in one hand, and tool used for sugar cane in the other.
According to the New York Times, the objects in the statue's hands represent weapons of resistance, and her wide stance reflects a 1967 photograph of Huey P. Newton.
This monument pays homage to the 19th century Queen, Mary Thomas, who led an uprising in the Caribbean against Danish colonial power. Thomas lead a female group known as “Queens” in 1878 for a revolt called “Fireburn.” During the revolt, they burned down 50 plantations with torches across Frederiksted on the west coast of St. Croix.
The statute entitled “I Am Queen Mary," sits in a warehouse that was once a sugar and rum factory. Virgin Islands artist Belle said, “this project is about challenging Denmark’s collective memory and changing it.”
This is groundbreaking for Denmark because none of their statues represent the accomplishments of Black historically revolutionaries. "Ninety-eight percent of the statues in Denmark are representing white males,” said Ehlers.
The Monument highlights Denmark's dark history. Henrik Holm, a senior research curator at Denmark’s National Gallery of Art, said, "It takes a statue like this to make forgetting less easy. It takes a monument like this to fight against the silence, neglect, repression, and hatred.”
With this statue, Denmark can never forget that like other colonial powers, it took thousands of Africans from their homes and forced them to be slaves.
Niels Brimnes, a leading expert on colonialism in Denmark said, “it may have to do with the narrative of Denmark as a colonial power saying, ‘We weren’t as bad as others, but we were just as bad as the others. I can’t identify a particular, humane Danish colonialism.”
The revealing of the statute also celebrates the United States purchasing of St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas from Denmark on March 3, 1917, for $25 million.