Will Buller fall? Council to review statue of imperialist general
Following yesterday’s Labour Party announcement that all their councils will review local monuments, Exeter City Council will be looking into the future of the General Redvers Buller statue on New North Road.
Often seen with a traffic cone on its head, the sculpture outside Exeter College commemorates the 19th century officer who was influential in the Zulu and Boer wars. Numerous military defeats earned him the nickname “Reverse Buller” and despite being sacked, many in the West Country were sympathetic towards him, with the statue being erected in 1905.
The Anglo-Zulu war, in which Buller won the Victoria Cross, resulted in the British annexation of the Kingdom of Zulu in South Africa. The commanders refused to take prisoners and massacred surrendering Zulus, influenced by the white supremacy that underlined European Imperialism. As Commander-in-Chief during the Second Boer War, Buller is also believed to have helped set up the concentration camps in which over 26,000 women and children died.
The reviewing of all monuments follows the Black Lives Matter movement in Bristol, where a statue of slave-trader Edward Colston was toppled and then dumped in the harbour by protestors.
One of the positive things that could come out of the death of George Floyd and the debate that has been inspired by the Black Lives Matter campaign is a greater awareness of the legacy of the slave trade and colonialismBen Bradshaw, MP for Exeter
The Council will not make the decision on whether or not Buller remains, with its leader, Phil Bialyk, explaining that it depends on Exeter residents: “Exeter is a diverse community which in the main is at peace with itself. It’s important how we remember and teach future generations about our history. We will consult on how we do this. But it isn’t my gift or that of my colleagues to make a unilateral decision, it’s one that the whole city must come to terms with.
“The values and sentiment behind the Black Lives Matter movement are incredibly important to myself and colleagues. We will listen to opinions and use the platforms that we have as politicians, to make sure, that all voices are heard.”
In a comment to Exeposé, Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw said: “I welcome this debate. History does not stand still at one point in time and it is healthy to reflect and discuss public memorials and art.
“One of the positive things that could come out of the death of George Floyd and the debate that has been inspired by the Black Lives Matter campaign is a greater awareness of the legacy of the slave trade and colonialism, its impact on the U.K. today and the desire to have a public realm that is more representative of all strands of our history and the whole of our diverse community”.