Only if you have been living under a rock would you be clueless about the huge protests in the US around George Floyd's death on May 25 this year, due to police brutality. These protests have transformed into a global movement against the larger issues of racism and oppression, and colonalism. Several statuesand memorials dedicated to Confederate figures have been toppled and torn down. Statues of figures who had links to slavery and colonialism have met a similar fate as the Black Lives Matter protests gain ground. A British monument built to honour the 17th century slave trader Edward Colston was toppled by protesters and tossed into the harbour in Bristol, England.
These statues were built as submission to those in power. Little did they know about the curveball that time was set to throw at them. As statues fall around the world in a symbolic revolt against centuries of slavery of colonialism, city and museum officials along with historians are being put to task to decide what to do with them.
Russia saw a similar trend when in August 1991, after a failed coup against Soviet reformer Mikhail Gorbachev, pro-democracy protesters pulled down the 19-foot tall statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Soviet Union's notorious secret police. It had stood guard in front of the KGB headquarters on Moscow's Lubyanka Square for the 30 years. This huge statue was dumped along the Moskva River and was soon followed by other fallen Soviet 'heroes'.
In 1992, the city of Moscow came up with a solution for housing fallen statues. It designated a sculpture park to them and gave it the rather strange and grand name of Muzeon Park of Arts. It is also called the Fallen Monuments Park, a more apt and direct label. Statues were placed tracing the edges of the park, and more were added in the subsequent years.
Some sculptures were those dedicated to martyrs of the Great War of Patriotism (World War II) and victims of the communist regime. Over the years, the park has undergone various innovations and adornments. Flowerbeds were laid out, an open-air cinema was installed, numerous cafes and winding walking pavements were added. The park later became an open-air museum of contemporary art, showcasing more than 700 artworks. It is now extensively used as a cultural and creative exhibition area.
That's quite a transformation.
In India too, statues of various historical figures of colonial significance (or those of contrasting and contradicting beliefs) have been toppled, from Lord Cornwallis and Lord Wellesley statues in Mumbai, to Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx in Kolkata, and King George V at India Gate in Delhi.
The Coronation Park was created in Delhi for these outdated colonial figures. The park has major significance in the history of the British empire in India as several durbars were held here by the Brits when Queen Victoria was declared the 'Empress of India' in 1877, and later in 1911, during King George’s accession to the throne, when he announced shifting of the national capital from Calcutta to Delhi. After the fall of the British empire in India, this park was seen as the surreal resting ground for the statues of various British rulers.
These memorial parks and fallen monuments show how influential and powerful rulers in history created statues to mark their perceived glory, and to achieve some kind of fake immortality. Some were the highest authority of power in their time, but they were completely oblivious of the fact that the people they were ruling will one day erase all links of their existence. Only a forlorn park in a dusty corner of a city will remain, and in some cases, perhaps not even that.