A life-size bronze statue of a Black female slave in the French city of Bordeaux has been defaced with white paint in what city officials called a racist attack.
The statue of Modeste Testas, whom a family in Bordeaux bought and enslaved in the 18th century to work in a sugar plantation in the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, was found to had been smeared with white paint from head to waist on Sept. 13 morning, but it has now been cleaned.
Bordeaux city hall said it would file a criminal complaint over the incident, which they said was “probably racist” in nature.
Stephane Gomot, the councilor in charge of heritage in the city, said that if racism was confirmed as the motive for the attack, it would constitute a “very violent attack on everything this statue represents,” including “the memory of people deported by slave traffickers.”
Inaugurated in 2019, the statue is among a series of gestures that Bordeaux — which used to be one of France’s main slave-trading hubs — has taken to address its colonial history.
Testas later moved to the U.S. and was freed after the death of her French owner. She returned to Hispaniola, now known as Haiti, and lived until the age of 105.