From the website of artist La Vaughn Belle:
“I AM QUEEN MARY
Danish artist Jeannette Ehlers and Virgin Islands artist La Vaughn Belle have teamed up to create a monumental public sculpture entitled I AM QUEEN MARY to be revealed on Saturday, March 31, 2018 at the Danish West Indian Warehouse in Copenhagen. This project is the first collaborative sculpture to memorialize Denmark’s colonial impact in the Caribbean and those who fought against it.
Timed to be unveiled at the end of the centennial year commemorating the 100th anniversary of Denmark’s sale of the Virgin Islands to the United States in March 1917, this project challenges Denmark’s role in slavery and the commemoration of its colonial past. It aims to change the narrative around this history and demonstrates how artists can be leaders in this conversation.”
From Website Iamqueenmarie.com:
“Ehlers wanted to connect various resistance movements and center them in the figure of Queen Mary, one of the main leaders of the 1878 labor revolt in St. Croix, also known as the “Fireburn”, and place her in front of the Danish West Indian warehouse in Copenhagen.”
“An intervention in this site would contrast the over 2000 white plaster casts of sculptures from Greek antiquity to the late Renaissance created to demonstrate the development of Western art in the Royal Cast collection, especially the two story sculpture of David by Michelangelo in the front of the building. After successfully securing funds in Denmark to realize this sculpture, Ehlers later invited Belle to collaborate on the project, combining not only their two sculptures, but their physical likenesses using 3D scanning technology, resulting in a hybrid of their bodies, nations and narratives in “I Am Queen Mary”.”
“”I Am Queen Mary” takes as its point of departure the historical figure of Mary Thomas, an important leader of the ‘Fireburn’ labour revolt on St. Croix. The Fireburn began on October 1, 1878 as an uprising against the contractual servitude that continued to bind workers to the plantation system after the 1848 abolition of slavery in the former Danish West Indies. As its name suggests, this insurrection for better working and living conditions involved burning down most of Frederiksted town as well as sugar cane fields on a great number of St. Croix’s plantations. Along with Mary Thomas, the three women Axeline ‘Agnes’ Elizabeth Salomon, Matilde McBean and Susanna ‘Bottom Belly’ Abrahamsson led the largest labor revolt in Danish colonial history. They were arrested and sent to Denmark in 1882 to serve prison sentences in Christianshavn’s Women’s Prison. Their sentences were later commuted and they were returned to St. Croix. They are venerated in U.S. Virgin Islands cultural mythology as the Queens of the Fireburn. There are folksongs dedicated to Queen Mary and a highway named in her honor. ”