France slave statue defaced in ‘racist’ attack, officials say

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The life-size statue is of Modeste Testas, an African slave who was bought by a family in Bordeaux in the 18th century and deported to the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean to work on a sugar plantation. AFP

A bronze statue of a black female slave in the French city of Bordeaux, a former slave-trading hub, has been defaced with white paint in an apparent racist attack, the city said on Monday.

The life-size statue is of Modeste Testas, an African slave who was bought by a family in Bordeaux in the 18th century and deported to the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean to work on a sugar plantation.

She was later freed after her French owner’s death in the US and returned to settle in the western part of Hispaniola now known as Haiti, where she lived until her death.

On Monday morning her statue, which stands on the banks of the Garonne river, was found smeared with white paint from the head to the waist.

Bordeaux city hall, which had it cleaned by midday, said it would file a criminal complaint over the incident, saying it was “probably racist” in nature.

The councillor in charge of heritage, Stephane Gomot, said that if racism was confirmed as the motive, it constituted a “very violent attack on everything this statue represents” including “the memory of people deported by slave traffickers.”

The western city of Bordeaux was one of France’s biggest hubs for trading slaves arriving from Africa, who were then shipped across the Atlantic to the Americas.

The statue, which depicts Testas in a long skirt, clutching a shawl draped around her shoulders, was inaugurated in May 2019 – one of a series of gestures by France’s wine-making capital towards addressing its colonial past.

Testas’s Haitian descendants attended the unveiling of the statue.