“Queen Mary” Is Denmark’s first Black Woman Statue, commemorating a resistor of colonial oppression.
Mary Thomas led the largest labor revolt in which statue artist Jeanette Ehlers calls Denmark’s “forgotten colonial past.”
It was known as the “Fireburn” revolt of 1878, where Thomas and others working on plantations in St.Croix, set fire to the island to demand better conditions for people forced to work with little pay. Thomas became known as “Queen Mary” while leading to revolt, alongside two other riot “queens.”
Ehlers explained, “The Queens of the Fireburn took action and fought against the oppressive colonial system, we are confronting present day’s racism and Eurocentrism by claiming a space for our narratives.”
She and Virgin Islands artist La Vaughn Belle collaborated to commemorate “Queen Mary” on the 100th anniversary of Denmark’s Sale of the Virgin Islands.
“It’s a hybrid of our bodies, nations and narratives. It extends the conversation beyond the centennial year and get people to really question what is their relationship to this history.” Belle explained.
The sculpture stands on Copenhagen’s waterfront near the West Indian Warehouse that used to store goods imported from its colonies. The artists hope the statue serves as a reminder of Denmark’s dark colonial past.