Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery opens (part 2)
Following the International Slavery Museum of Liverpool that opened in 2007, at the end of March this year, Nantes inaugurated a Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery. Investigation in two parts.
uros) and partly by the European Union (1.3 million Euros). The French State, however, did not offer a centime to the project, and so its local representative, the Préfet de Loire Atlantique was notably absent from the guest list at the official opening.
“Not another act of contrition”
Franck Louvrier, Senior Communication Advisor of president Nicolas Sarkozy and regional opposition candidate published his response in L’Express “Nantes did not follow the procedures to secure governmental grants set out by the Minister for Culture. On the other hand, we do prioritise funding for such areas as the legacy of the Slave Trade, though this is often directed to overseas départements”. Meanwhile he supports the project and asked local UMP politicians to vote for it according to the magazine.
The initial budget was set at 6.9 million Euros. But a few technical difficulties, and some crossed wires between the two designers of the memorial and an Italian-Spanish-German occurred business partnership led to a 6-month delay for the opening. During this period of time, no one, not a construction worker nor a Nantes Métropole PR advisor was allowed to speak to the press.
Despite these grey areas, Nantes' socialist MP and mayor Jean-Marc Ayrault remains - of course - enthusiastic: “The Memorial is not another act of contrition, but a genuine call to us all to remember past struggles in order to project ourselves into the future, fighting against all modern forms of slavery and denial of human rights in order to build a more united world”.
“Nantes never abolished slavery”
In fact, local associations are united on the idea of memory but not on the memorial – with the exception of the odd descendant from slave traders who refuse both. President of the Anneaux de la Mémoire [Chaines of Memory] Yvon Chotard is still sceptical: “We are not completely satisfied. Building a memorial is just like erecting war monuments like we did in all French villages after the First World War. First of all a Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery seems a bit strange to us because Nantes never abolished slavery. Secondly we could have done something more elaborated than a simple 'meditative path' with this budget... ”.
On the record, Michel Cocotier, Head of Mémoire d'Outre-Mer [Memory of Overseas] that collaborated on the project is satisfied “On the evocation of its' slave trade history Nantes is a model. Other cities like La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Saint-Malo or le Havre do not seem as willing to evoke this painful past. So we can thank the Ville de Nantes for that”. Off the record, however, doubts begin to surface. The debate is far from over.