a Belgian municipality removes the statue of a character from

The municipality of Ixelles in Belgium made a very symbolic gesture this Thursday, 30 June. She removed the statue of Lieutenant General Emile Storms from the public space. The latter, on behalf of King Leopold II to colonize the Congo in the 19th century, had committed many abuses on the spot. In particular, he had sent the skull of a local chief back to Belgium.

Since the 2018 investigation by a journalist about the human remains in Tervuren’s museum’s collections, associations demanded that this bust of Emile Storms be released. A sulfur-containing character sent in 1882 by King Leopold II to conquer new territories in the Congo.

This very brutal lieutenant general had committed many abuses in the Lake Tanganyika region, in particular cutting off the head of a local commander, Lusinga Iwa Ngombe, whose skull he sent to Belgium. A leader from whom he will also plunder hundreds of objects.

“He is a really second, third-class personality, a lieutenant general who was only known for his barbaric acts in the service of the authority of the time,” recalls Christos Doulkeridis, the mayor of Ixelles, who decided to remove this statue. this colonial period explicitly indicated that it was pointless to maintain such a controversial and secondary personality in the public sphere, and that on some occasions it is also useful to be able to retreat into a logic of forgiveness and a more contemporary logic.

This bust, which was dismantled on Thursday morning, will now be exhibited in a museum where contextualization work should be carried out to tell its story exactly.

Is the dismantling of this statue part of this change in Belgium’s view of its colonial past? Guido Gryssels, director general of the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium, believes that today there is a certain “development of social thinking” in this subject.

Belgium has always been proud of its colonial past and used figures who had played a role in colonization as examples of model citizens. That is why there are hundreds and hundreds of statues of people who played a role in the colonial past. And we now realize that these people were bullies, were violent, responsible for many deaths. There is a change in societal thinking that these people do not deserve a statue.

Guido Gryssels, Director General of the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren

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