To keep his dream alive, 50 identical statues of Martin Luther King were placed from Washington to Amsterdam on locations that refer to slavery and places that let us remember how important it is to end racism and fight for equality, regardless of gender, religion and race.
23 statues were placed in the public space. When doing so, there's always the risk that there will be damage after some time. It was expected. But still, it was heartbreaking to find two third of the statues being stolen, broken, amputated and even beheaded. First reaction was to think of racist motives. The images of 'southern trees bearing strange fruit' immediately cross the mind. Rescueing the vandalized statues and bringing them home was first priority. It was so sad to be confronted with sheer vandalism... why do people want to destroy things? Do they think it is funny?
The statues were placed in public places, from Amsterdam to The Hague, up to Friesland. Ten of them have been taken inside and adopted by museums and institutions, like Museum van Loon, Museum of World Cultures and UN Peace Palace.
Five disappeared; stolen or taken away, their whereabouts are unknown. Eight were damaged and eventually came back, sometimes even after months. Those eight broken statues are the silent witnesses of the aggression, indifference and violence in our society.
The statue placed next to Mama Baranka, the monument for Kerwin Duinmeijer in the Vondelpark, was stolen by an alcoholic, but the police caught the thief, when he was walking away with the statue under his arm. So again Martin Luther King ended up in the police station... Luckily the police officers found out where the statue belonged, and the park managers picked it up. It was heartwarming to discover that some people really took care of the statues and looked after them. They are the brothers and sisters who sent a message, when they discovered something bad happened to the Dr. King statues. Thank you, strangers, for taking care.
The first intervention happened by unknown people: 8 statues were broken, beheaded, vandalized in 2018. Two years later during the COVID-19 pandemic, worldwide protests took place against racism and anti-black police violence, after the death of George Floyd, on May 25, 2020. Also in this month, confederate and Columbus statues were pulled down and beheaded in the US, and a slave trader statue was toppled in Bristol, UK, to end the honoring of men who murdered many people.
So this was the right moment to fix one of the beheaded Martin Luther King statues, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Artist Oscar Peters of the Artistic Repair Shop fixed this broken statue in a brilliant way. This statue has been standing next to the National Slavery Monument in Oosterpark, Amsterdam. The statues was repaired during the Keti Koti month, June 2020. Keti Koti (Broken Chains) is the celebration of the abolition of slavery in 1873. Thank you Oscar Peters for the amazing and powerful intervention. Black Lives Matter!
Monument Against Apartheid and Racism: beheaded, taken home
West India House: beheaded, taken home
Kerwin Duinmeijer: stolen and rescued by the police
Multatuli: fractured legs, taken home
Long Walk to Freedom: fractured legs, rescued by a friend
National Slavery Monument: beheaded, rescued by park managers
Anton de Kom: broken legs, rescued by municipal official
Slave Ship Leusden: totally destroyed, taken home
Dokkum: anti-Black Pete demonstration spot
HIghway Blockade: A7 near Joure
Dock Worker: Amsterdam
Nelson Mandela Park: Amsterdam South-East
National Slavery Monument: fixed by artist Oscar Peters