French town in race row over Marianne statue removal

Marianne statues are seen as symbols of the French Republic

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The Independent Online

The mayor of a town in France has ignited a race row over plans to remove a statue of a black woman because it is "not a symbol of the Republic".

Mayor Marcel Allegre, who was elected in March 2014, told Le Point: "This black sculpture was a Marianne of liberty, but not a Marianne of the French Republic. She undoubtedly represented something, but not the French Republic."

The statue of Marianne, which has stood in front of the town hall of Fremainville, northern France, since 1999, became the centre of a row after it was announced that it would be "evicted" from its place outside the town hall.

Marianne statues are seen as symbols of the French Republic, as well as icons of freedom and democracy. One of the best known Mariannes is seen in Eugene Delacroix’s masterpiece 'Liberty Leading the People'.

The Representative Council of Black Associations (CRAN ) responded to the decision of the mayor Marcel Allegre (SE). Louis-Georges Tin, chairman of the board, said: "I don’t see why Marianne could not be a black woman."

Maurice Maillet, the town's mayor for 25 years until losing to Allegre, was confused by the decision.

“I don’t see any reason why the French Republic would not be black,' he told France24. 'Just look at France’s national football team.'

Le CRAN (Representative Council of Black Associations of France), said: "Either we live in a white and racial Republic, and Marcel Allègre is right, or we live in a diverse Republic, and the mayor of Frémainville is wrong."

The council requested that the next official bust of Marianne was inspired by the features of a woman who is black, Arabic or Asian, and claimed that it had filed a legal complaint demanding to sanction the Fremainville mayor.

Marcel Allegre later told told Le Parisien that he will place Marianne Noir in another municipal hall, rather than scrapping the statue altogether.