Artist Kehinde Wiley describes the historical Confederate statues in the middle of Richmond as “designed to terrorize and menace.”
One statue depicts cavalry commander Gen. J.E.B. Stuart sitting upon a muscular horse, striking a heroic pose. That was the inspiration for Wiley’s new statue of a black man with dreads straddling a horse in a similar pose.
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A similar bronze sculpture has been installed about a mile from Jeb Stuart. It portrays a black man with dreads, wearing a hoodie and Nike sneakers (Nike uses Chinese slave labor – ironic).
The statue is called Rumors of War. It was built by Wiley, widely known for painting the official portrait of President Barack Obama.
After spending several weeks on display in Times Square, the three-story-tall statue was officially unveiled Tuesday at its permanent home. It sits in front of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
“It is monumental and not just a figure of speech. It is truly monumental, in terms of its ability to be a seismic shift in how we perceive and how we understand ourselves as people living here,” Valerie Cassel Oliver, the museum’s curator of modern and contemporary art, told NPR.
The museum wrote that the new sculpture “commemorates African American youth lost to the social and political battles being waged throughout our nation.”
Julian Hayter, a historian and associate professor at the University of Richmond, sees Wiley’s installation as a way to push back against minimizing slavery and racism in the Civil War.
It’s also 1984. If they control the past, they can control the future. Eventually, this theme will replace all of history.