Statue of black woman in Rotterdam causes monumental stir

The statue in front of the station. Photo: ANP / Hollandse Hoogte / Hans van Rhoon

Moments Contained, a four-metre high statue of a black woman dressed in jogging pants and trainers looking out over Rotterdam’s busy Stationsplein, has been causing a stir, with reactions ranging from “chill” to “insulting”.

The statue, the work of British artist Thomas J Price, and given to the city by art charity Droom en Daad, was unveiled last weekend and has already become an icon, attracting a lot of photographic attention.

Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said at the launch he expected the statue to become the most photographed spot in the city. “She is not a heroine, no-one with an illustrious past,” he said. “She has the future, she is the future, our future, and this city is her home.”

Local Volt councillor Imane Elfilali told the press she felt ‘recognition: this what we look like in Rotterdam, we are not all alike, we are diverse.”

And Tara Lewis, a journalist who was present at the presentation of the statue, said she had felt the pride and relief of black women present “who are often reduced to second-rate citizens by systems and people”.

But in a column in the NRC, Rosanna Hertzberger criticised Price’s contention that his statues ‘challenge our ideas about art in public spaces(..), who should be represented there”, calling it “hypocritical art jargon”.

Hertzberger said the statue represented a tendency to sympathise with marginalised people without expecting them to do anything in return. “Just being a woman, having a disability, a dark skin or preferably a combination of all three is enough to be lauded, particularly in the cultural sector”, she wrote.

Hertzberger’s column has drawn plenty of ire, with historian Tineke Bennema pointing out that the same could be said of the Girl with the Pearl Earring and the Potato Eaters “who have not achieved anything” and are not heroes or heroines either.

In the meantime, both Rotterdammers and tourists have been posing in the sunshine with the girl, and their reactions have been overwhelmingly positive.

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