Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 23 October 2020

Is Denmark's Little Mermaid monument racist?

Vandals scrawled "Racist Fish" on the base of the statue in Copenhagen

Police stand  in front of the Little Mermaid sculpture after it was vandalised in Copenhagen.  AFP 
Police stand  in front of the Little Mermaid sculpture after it was vandalised in Copenhagen.  AFP 

The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, the city's most famous monument, was vandalised on Friday but police and commentators were puzzled as to who might have done it and what their message really is.

"We can confirm that The Little Mermaid has been vandalised some time before 9am this morning," Copenhagen police said in a statement to AFP.

"An unknown person has written the words 'Racist Fish' on it. We are investigating the case."

Police stand  in front of the Little Mermaid sculpture after it was vandalised in Copenhagen.  AFP 
Police stand in front of the Little Mermaid sculpture after it was vandalised in Copenhagen. AFP

The Little Mermaid, inspired by a character in Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen's 1837 fairytale of the same name, is a 175-kilogram statue by sculptor Edvard Eriksen.

The statue has been vandalised numerous times over the years, including when the mermaid's head was stolen in 1964 and again in 1998, as well as when an arm was cut off in 1984.

The meaning of the apparent racist accusation has however so far left some scratching their heads.

"Of course in general with literary works, you can read them with various glasses," Ane Grum-Schwensen, an expert at the University of Southern Denmark, told Danish broadcaster TV2.

"However, I do find it a little difficult to see, what would be especially racist in the adventure "The Little Mermaid," she added.

Cultural icons targeted

According to police other statues around Copenhagen have also been vandalised with "various phrases”.

One of missionary Hans Egede, who launched Lutheran mission efforts to Greenland, and one of Mahatma Gandhi in the northwestern part of the city were defaced.

Police also said that last month, someone had written "racist" on a statue of Danish King Christian IV, who ruled between 1588 and 1648.

Statues of historical figures in many countries have come under fire from activists protesting against racism following the death of George Floyd, an African-American killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis in May.

Updated: July 3, 2020 06:50 PM

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