A sculpture in tribute to the Emir Abdelkader was vandalized before its inauguration on Saturday in Amboise (Indre-et-Loire). This work had been proposed by the historian Benjamin Stora in his report on “Memorial questions relating to colonization and the war in Algeria”, submitted to Emmanuel Macron in January 2021.
“Indignation”, “shame”, “cowardice”. Reactions and condemnations multiplied in France, Saturday January 5, after the degradation of a sculpture in tribute to the Emir Abdelkader, just before its inauguration in Amboise, in Indre-et-Loire. It is in this city that this Algerian national hero was detained from 1848 to 1852.
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Shortly before the ceremony scheduled for 11 a.m., passers-by and the hundred or so people present discovered that the work, entitled “Passage Abdelkader”, signed by the Touraine artist Michel Audiard and representing the Emir cut out of a sheet of steel rusted, had been largely degraded in the lower part of the structure.
“The work was in perfect condition since its installation ten days ago. The municipal police noted this morning, a little after 8 a.m., the damage. There is no claim”, indicated to the AFP the squadron leader of the gendarmerie, Hugues Loyez.
The prosecutor of Tours, Grégoire Dulin, announced the opening of an investigation for “serious degradation of property intended for public utility and belonging to a public person”.
“Let’s remember what unites us. The Republic will not erase any trace or any name from its history. It will not forget any of its works. It will not unbolt statues”, condemned Emmanuel Macron in a reaction transmitted to the AFP.
The Minister of Culture, Roselyne Bachelot, also “firmly” condemned the degradation. “We wanted to tackle a work of art, and the message of reconciliation of memories it carries,” wrote the minister on Twitter.
If the inauguration of the stele was maintained, the mayor of Amboise, Thierry Boutard (DVD), expressed his “indignation”. “I was ashamed that we treat a work of art and an artist of this kind. The second feeling is of course indignation. It is a day of harmony that must unite and such behavior is unspeakable”, he told AFP.
“It’s a politically tense period or that some like to stretch. (…) We will resist against these slanderous words, these unspeakable acts, often tinged with intolerance and racism”, he added.
The work will be restored
The artist Michel Audiard confided his pain to see his work partly destroyed. “It’s really a premeditated rampage. You need a grinder, you have to cut, you have to twist. It’s an act of cowardice (…), it’s not signed, it’s free. We were there to celebrate an emblematic character in tolerance and there, it is an intolerant act. I am appalled, “he said.
The mayor also indicated that the work would be “restored and redone”. The artist estimated it possible within a month.
The Algerian ambassador to France, Mohamed Antar Daoud, for his part denounced “an act of vandalism of unspeakable baseness”. “We have to overcome that (…). The Franco-Algerian rapprochement continues. There is a dynamic, a desire on both sides to move forward.”
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Historian Benjamin Stora denounced the “obscurantism and ignorance” of those who vandalized the work. “Emir Abdelkader had several lives. He fought against France, of course, but he was also a friend of France. Those who made this gesture know nothing about the history of France, they are illiterate, uneducated who do not know what the emir was,” he regretted.