How other countries dealt with their statue problems

2015-04-12 15:01

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With independence in 1963, Kenya’s new government acted swiftly when it came to colonial monuments. Statues of King George V and Lord Delamere were removed, as well as a bronze portrait plaque on the King George VI memorial.

In their place, leaders Jomo Kenyatta and the notorious Daniel arap Moi sought to provide new idols for the Kenyan people, with the erection of two Kenyatta statues and a series of Nyayo monuments (pictured) named after Moi’s philosophy of a Kenya united by nationalism.


In August 1990, a group of art-history students from East and West Berlin formed the Initiative for Political Monuments of the German Democratic Republic – an independent group that came together with the fall of the Berlin Wall (pictured) to make a study of the political shrines throughout Germany and create a proposal for the future of the sculptures amid demands from the public to smash them all.

The students staged a public exhibition of images of the statues and asked the public: should we conserve, destroy or alter them? It prompted the district government to hold a meeting of its own, which resulted in the first of many competitions inviting proposals for what to do with historical sites and symbols, decided on a case-by-case basis.

The role the students played in opening the discussion of a national identity is often referred to as the Stunde Null, or Zero Hour. This was a term taken from military planning indicating the beginning of an operation or event.

The Democratic Republic of Congo

The site of one of history’s most brutal colonial regimes, it is no surprise postcolonial Congo wanted no trace of the despised King Leopold II (pictured) and Henry Morton Stanley.

Statues of the men were removed and later replaced by monuments to Mobutu Sese Seko and Laurent Kabila. There is also a monument to Patrice Lumumba, which to this day is always strewn with fresh flowers from citizens and tourists.


Gazetted as a national monument, the Reiterdenkmal statue (pictured) was removed in 2013 by police officers.

The removal took place in the middle of the night and was controversial, mainly because the government seemed to change its position on the matter.

Then president Hifikepunye Pohamba said at the time that the statue was an “obstacle to the healing of the nation”.

Various countries – sculpture parks

One popular solution for the future of political relics is their relocation to public sculpture parks, outdoor museums specifically designated as places of memory.

Moscow’s Fallen Monument Park became one such home for the sculptures of the former Soviet Union, where they sit alongside other socialist realism works.

India’s Coronation Park hosts the world’s tallest statue of King George V after it was removed from the front of the Civic Building.

Lithuania’s Grutas Park is a memorial theme park where visitors can sleep in themed prison camps and hop on “torture trains”.

Budapest’s Memento Park is more like a graveyard, but its existence became a national obsession for the 10 years it was being built after Hungary’s Communist period.

After Taiwan’s independence from China, the more than 200 statues of the then leader of China, Chiang Kai-shek, needed to be moved.

A park for only these sculptures was established (pictured) where Chiang looks at himself all around the grounds, sometimes in humorous ways.

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