Accra, 1966

In 1957 under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana was the first sub-Saharan African country to gain independence from colonial power, as the wave of liberation movements successfully swept across the continent. Later, in 1965 the white ruling class of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) declared their freedom from Britain. Ghana criticized the UK for allowing the […]

Addis Ababa, 1991

Mengistu Haile Mariam was the leader of Ethiopia from 1977 to 1991 and chairman of the military junta that governed the country until his overthrow. During that time, Mengistu pursued an autocratic politics that led to thousands of Ethiopians being killed. The statue of Vladimir Lenin in Addis Ababa was an important government monument representing […]

San Cristobal de las Casas

The statue of Diego de Mazariegos was toppled on the Christopher Columbus quincentennial, on 12 October 1992. He has been awarded monumental status for his pivotal role in the colonisation of the Chiapas region of Mexico. According to Thomas Benjamin (Professor of Latin American History at Central Michigan University), “One marcher knocked the statue off […]


The Confederate Soldiers Monument (“The Boys Who Wore Gray”) was a memorial to the soldiers from Durham County who fought for the Confederate States in the American Civil War. The monument was erected in 1924 – nearly sixty years after the end of the Civil War – in front of the Old Durham County Courthouse […]

Madrid, 1936

During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) iconoclastic activity directed at churches, monasteries and Catholic monuments spread throughout the country. The ‘execution’ of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by militia at Cerro de Los Ángeles near Madrid was the most infamous of widespread destruction of religious property. Built in 1919, it was inaugurated by King Alfonso […]

Tehran, 1979

Reza Shah Pahlavi ruled Iran until the British removed him in 1941, leading to the democratic election of President Mohammad Mossadegh in 1951. However, after he nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company two years later, Mossadegh was overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. Mohammad Reza, the son of the previous leader Reza Shah Pahlavi, was then installed […]


In a video posted online on 26 February 2015, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) entered the Mosul Museum in Iraq to destroy ancient Assyrian and Akkadian artifacts they deemed “idolatrous.” Members of the group are seen pushing over statues and using jackhammers and sledgehammers to deface others. However, not all of the […]


In 1966, China’s Communist leader Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution to reassert his authority over the Chinese government. Mao called on the nation’s youth to purge the ‘impure’ elements of traditional Buddhist and Daoist society to revive the revolutionary spirit. Red Guards destroyed statues across the county, including this one in Harbin, while exiling, […]

Fort-de-France, 1991

Josephine was the wife of Napoleon I and the first Empress of France after he proclaimed himself Emperor. She was the daughter of a powerful sugar plantation owner in Fort-de-France, Martinique, who claimed ownership of over 300 enslaved people. It is believed that Josephine persuaded Napoleon to re-establish slave labour soon after it was abolished […]

Budapest, 1956

Sam Durant captures a pivotal moment in the escalation of the Cold War, as Hungarians rebelled against Soviet control in Budapest. In 1956 the Stalinist leader, Mátyás Rákosi was overthrown and Hungarian resistance moved into the streets. The massive statue of Joseph Stalin in central Budapest was pulled down in October, but by December the […]

Utrecht, 1572

  In 1517, a German professor of theology named Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses — which objected to various practices of the Catholic Church — to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. Soon after, the Iconoclastic Fury swept across much of Europe, justified by the belief that statues in a house of […]

Paris, 1871

The Paris Commune was a revolutionary socialist regime against the French government that seized power for three months, 18 March – 28 May 1871. Erected by Napoleon to celebrate French military victories, the Vendôme Column was considered a “symbol of brutal force and false glory” by the Paris Commune, and the famous painter Gustave Courbet […]

Sam Durant: Iconoclasm

For thousands of years monuments have been constructed by one culture, only to be destroyed by another as attitudes, beliefs and structures of power shift and change. The culture wars are nothing new. All around the University of Essex are sited Sam Durant’s large scale drawings from the series Iconoclasm, depicting acts of destruction enacted […]