What got me thinking about statues was the recent news item about a man being arrested in the UK for ‘illegally’ bringing the ‘butt’ of the statue of Sadam Hussein from Iraq. This was a 2ft bronze lump that he saved from being melted down after it was toppled by the US marines in 2003. He brought it back with him and now Iraq wants it returned. They claim it is their cultural history (??).
But(t) it raised several questions in my mind. About the statues of the past and those of the present. I am sure the sculptors of yore put in a lot of thought and worked to make it a piece of art. They chose subjects that were worthy of their skill. Mythological figures, of kings and queens and of great leaders.
The living had no thoughts of transfering their image in stone or metal. That was unheard of. Did Madam Tussauds wax models of living celebrities bring about the change? Anyway I knew Sadam had one only after it was brought down. And of course, recently in the news for all the wrong reasons, are that of Mayawati.
While I grew up, apart from the statues that were left behind by the British (as they took away priceless pieces of art) , we had the occasional statue of Mahatma Gandhi or Sardar Patel. It was after Jawaharlal Nehru passed away that some of his statues came up. But these were few. It is only lately, with petty politicians aplenty that statues are put up with public money of those who have made little or no contribution to society.
Statues to me are a cause of ire. We have one right at the beginning of the lane. Of that of Rajiv Gandhi. It served as a landmark while giving directions to the house. All that changed once Congress came back to power. At every occasion a dias is put up overnight, the ‘leaders’ congregate, flower garlanding ceremonies are planned for the busiest part of the morning leaving all office-goers stranded. And for us, we are stuck in our lane with no way out,. All I do is fret and fume. Thoughts of toppling it down have also entered my mind.
And it is therefore no surprise that statues are the targets of mob fury and political vengeance. Who can forget the destruction of the statues of The Buddha by the Taliban? Well, anyway the BJP, SP, have said that if they come back to power in UP, they would auction the statues of Mayawati.
It appears that statues are no longer meant for posterity. They are to be toppled, destroyed, covered or even auctioned!
But I would think, all it takes is a pigeon. And as the fictional character David Brent of the BBC mockumentary ‘Office’ said You just have to accept that some days you are the pigeon, and some days you are the statue.
And Mayawati and others like her would well do to remember that !