Outside the High Court in the Guyanese capital of Georgetown stands a stoic-looking statue of Queen Victoria. Since its unveiling in 1894, the controversial statue has been removed and returned, decapitated and defaced, but as of yet remains standing as a contentious symbol of Guyana’s colonial past.
In 1887, the colonial rulers of what was then British Guiana commissioned a statue of Queen Victoria to mark her Golden Jubilee. Created by the English sculptor Henry Richard Hope-Pinker, the marble statue was unveiled in 1894 outside the High Court in Georgetown.
The statue stood in relative peace for more than half a century. Then, in 1954, the statue became the target of anti-colonial protests stirred up by repressive measures taken by the Colonial Office. The statue was dynamited and its head and left hand were blown off. It was sent to England to be repaired, and returned to Georgetown.
Guyana gained its independence in 1966 and became a Cooperative Republic in 1970, at which time the statue of Victoria was moved to a quiet corner of the capital’s botanical gardens. Then, in 1990, the city’s mayor decided to restore the statue and return it to its original location in front of the High Court. Many locals were surprised, and some were enraged.
Calls for the removal of the statue continued throughout the following decades, but local authorities were not inclined to listen. Then, in June 2018, Queen Victoria suffered another attack, this time with red paint. Many condemned the act of vandalism, while others saw it as a justifiable move by anti-colonial activists.
The person or persons who defaced the statue faced a fine of up to $20,000 or 12 months in prison, but were never caught. The statue, meanwhile, was restored. It still stands outside the High Court in Georgetown, but for how long remains to be seen.
Know Before You Go
The statue of Queen Victoria stands in front of the High Court in Georgetown, near the corner of Charlotte Street and King Street. It’s easy to see from the road.