I Am Queen Mary: DIS Supports Decolonizing Art Project in Copenhagen

‘I Am Queen Mary’ presents an allegorical portrait of Mary Thomas, a sugarcane plantation worker who led the largest labor revolt in Danish colonial history in 1878.

Created as a trans-Atlantic collaboration by artists Jeannette Ehlers (Denmark) and La Vaughn Belle (U.S. Virgin Islands), ‘I Am Queen Mary’ made international headlines in 2018 as the first monument to a Black woman in Denmark and the first honoring of the people who resisted Danish colonialism in the Caribbean. The monumental sculpture stands in front of Vestindisk Pakhus (West Indian Warehouse) at the very site where Danish colonial trade ships docked in Copenhagen.

DIS is supporting the ‘I Am Queen Mary’ art project through the acquisition of a special edition prototype of the public sculpture, which calls attention to the Danish colonial slave trade and its postcolonial ramifications. The acquisition will help generate funds to realize the permanent ‘I Am Queen Mary’ monument in Copenhagen.

An Art Reveal Reception was held at DIS Copenhagen this fall where the artists, Jeannette Ehlers and La Vaughn Belle, introduced their work, followed by the Seminar Night, ‘Decolonizing History, Art, and the Body’.

Malene Torp, Executive Director of DIS, comments:

“‘I Am Queen Mary’ commemorates a particular chapter in Danish history which we can learn from even today, and it also symbolizes historical relations between the United States and Denmark. Emphasizing our work on diversity, equity, and inclusion, there was no doubt in my mind that we should support the artists’ campaign. The support benefits both the artists’ work to realize the permanent monument and our students through the visibility of the sculpture in our Student Hub every day.”

‘I Am Queen Mary’ has been part of the DIS curriculum since the monument’s inauguration in 2018. DIS faculty have taken hundreds of students to see this important work on-site, and many students have been able to meet the artists. The special edition prototype of ‘I Am Queen Mary’ is installed in the DIS Student Hub in Copenhagen.

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