The statue of La Bourdonnais on Réunion Island soon to be unbolted

All the versions of this article: English , français
1. Louis Rochet (1813-1878)
Monument of Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais
Bronze, stone base
Saint-Denis de la Réunion, place La Bourdonnais
Photo : Thierry Caro (CC BY-SA 3.0)
See the image in its page

17/10/23 - Heritage - La Réunion - On 6 May we reported (see this article) on the threats to unbolt the bronze statue of La Bourdonnais, sculpted by Louis Rochet and listed as a historic monument. These threats are becoming increasingly pressing, with all the obstacles to this heritage crime now virtually removed.

It will be remembered that the Region, hostile in theory to this undertaking, had suspended the 2.9 million subsidy it was proposing for the restoration of the square. In the end, it granted the money on the sole condition that it not be used to pay for the relocation of the sculpture. It was a less than glorious Pontius Pilate decision, as the Mayor of La Réunion, Ericka Bareigts, was determined to get rid of the work and had it financed by the city.
Prefect Jérôme Filipinni, as we have already seen, agrees with her. Yet, he represents the French State, in other words Emmanuel Macron’s government, the French President, as we mentioned in our first article, having stated that no sculpture would be unbolted! In fact, the term seems to frighten people and is not endorsed by most of those involved in the issue. Yet the mayor had used it clearly. Because it’s a question of unbolting and nothing else: the removal of a sculpture because the figure represented doesn’t please some people.
As for the Director of Cultural Affairs for Réunion, Marie Jo Lo Thong, according to our information, she has taken personal charge of the matter, and the mayor is dealing directly with her, with the Regional Conservation of Historic Monuments now out of the loop, which is totally anomalous.

The application for planning permission has therefore been long-term loaned and is currently being examined, but all the protagonists in this affair are in complete agreement: the mayor, the director of cultural affairs and the prefect. On 11 October, the Prefect authorised a "lifting test" on the sculpture!
As for the Ministry of Culture in Paris, it seems stunned by the affair, and we have not been able to obtain any information from it, while the Élysée Palace, also contacted, has not replied to us either. Everything seems to be in place for a public sculpture - and one that is protected as a historic monument - to be unbolted and moved with its base (and the risks that this entails) to be installed not in a public place, but in a military compound that is not accessible to visitors.

The Friends of La Bourdonnais association, which is actively campaigning against this disgraceful action, has received a letter from the newly-appointed Commander of the Armed Forces in the southern Indian Ocean, General Giraud. She believes that he, who is in no way responsible for this affair, is showing obvious goodwill. In particular, he would like to install the monument in a location that would show it off to its best advantage, and plans to give visitors access to it from time to time, particularly during the Heritage Days. 
The fact remains, however, that the square, of which the sculpture is an essential part, would be permanently denatured and the work would no longer be permanently visible as it is today (Réunion is not necessarily visited during the Heritage Days), which means that it’s definitely a case of unbolting.

If this monument were to disappear from public view, it would be a first: the official removal of a monument by France to satisfy the prevailing wokism. Whose turn will it be tomorrow? We all know that promises are only binding on those who believe them. We had the weakness to believe in President Emmanuel Macron’s promise. He still has time to keep his word.

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