Churchill statue should be buried to its waist so it can be ‘looked down’ says South African artist

Winston Churchill statues should be buried up to their waist so viewers can ‘look down on them’ says South African artist William Kentridge

  • William Kentridge, said Churchill is ‘not a hero’ to Indians starved during WWII
  • He said the West has ‘a lot to deal with’ since the Black lives Matter movement
  • The artist said that Britain should ask ‘How do we deal with our blighted past?’

Winston Churchill is ‘not a hero’ and his statue in Parliament Square should be buried up to its waist so viewers can ‘look down’ on it, a South African artist has sensationally claimed.

William Kentridge, who has a retrospective at the Royal Academy this year, said that Britain is struggling to cope with its history of imperialism and argued that statues of contentious historical figures should be reframed.

Suggesting that the box installed around Churchill’s statue during the BLM protests alleviated rather than removed tensions, he said: ‘That palisade was saying, for British people, Churchill is the greatest Briton who ever lived. But for millions of Indians who starved because all grain was taken for the British forces during the war, he’s not a hero.

William Kentridge, who has a retrospective at the Royal Academy this year

Sir Winston Churchill statue in Parliament Square

William Kentridge said the statue of Churchill in Westminster should be buried up to its waist so that people can ‘look down’ on it

William Kentridge: Jewish South African whose parents battled apartheid

William Kentridge’s parents were lawyers who helped victims of apartheid in South Africa.

He was born in Johannesburg in 1955.

He is best known for a series of eleven animated films, ‘Drawings for Projection’, the first of which was made in 1989.

They are based on anecdotes from his life and political events which led to the end of apartheid.

Nine of his prints and drawings are in the Tate Modern in London.

‘Putting that wooden fence around him was great. It said: he’s in there somewhere. You can’t see him, but we know of his presence. 

‘And it sets it as a question mark, which is when the statue is at its most alive. 

‘Removing the statue does not take the question away. Leaving it doesn’t solve the question. But that palisade allows for a space in between.’

Speaking to the Art Newspaper, he added: ‘I think [the UK] could just take some of these monuments off their plinths and dig a hole in the ground, then bury them up to their waists. 

‘So you can see them, but you’re looking down on them.’

He said the Black Lives Matter Movement has left ‘a lot to deal with’ for many in the West, drawing a comparison with the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, which has been a ‘central question’ for decades.

The artist added that South Africa is ‘ahead’ of the UK because while the former apartheid nation has a ‘blighted past’, they have ‘built a consensus on that’.

Britain, he said in contrast, should ask itself: ”How do we deal with our blighted past?’ rather than defending it and saying it was nothing but a heroic history.’

The celebrated wartime leader was boarded up by London Mayor Sadiq Khan after it was attacked by anti-fascist and BLM protesters two years ago – a move that Boris Johnson branded as ‘absurd and shameful’. 

Churchill, pictured at his seat in the Cabinet Room at Number 10 Downing Street in 1940

Churchill, pictured at his seat in the Cabinet Room at Number 10 Downing Street in 1940

Britain’s ‘culture wars’ have in recent years revolved around the question of whether statues of historical British figures involved in colonialism or slavery should be taken down or remain standing. 

During a famous Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol after the murder of George Floyd in the US, a statue of 18th Century slave trader Edward Colston was toppled by protestors and tossed into the harbour. 

Four people accused of removing the statue were later cleared in court of criminal damage in a verdict that split the country. 

The Government says that public statues of controversial figures should remain standing, but their histories should be explained. 

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