Black Virgin Mary Statue Painted White in Disturbing Case of Vandalism

by Xara Aziz
Credit: Buntola Nou

A Black Virgin Mary in a Canadian province has been found defaced after perpetrators painted its face and hands white.

Authorities say the incident at the Notre Dame D’Afrique (Our Lady of Africa) statue, located near Beechwood Cemetery, is an “unauthorized act of vandalism.” Police are looking for suspects.

The statue was erected in 1955 by the Society of Missionaries of Africa, which used to own the land it sits on. The priests were known to be White Fathers and decided Virgin Mary would be their patron saint in 1938.

“In Africa, the Virgin Mary is often depicted with dark skin, and that was the case with the statue in Vanier until someone recently repainted the face and hands white,” according to a CBC report.

The report further added that the city is responsible for protecting and maintaining the statue and told the publication that they did not authorize the repainting. They say the act “appears to be vandalism.”

The Ottawa police and the city’s corporate office have since hired a firm to restore the statue.

“Work has since begun to have the statue restored and repainted,” Dan Chenier, the city’s general manager of recreation, cultural and facility services, said in a statement. “As a contract has not yet been awarded, we do not have a timeline for completion of this work at this time.”

The statue’s blue robe, crown and posture are similar to the original Black Virgin Mary statue that was erected in Algeria in the 19th century, said Diego Elizondo, project officer with the Franco-Ontarian Heritage Network.

He said that the Vanier statue has been vandalized many times before until 1994 when lighting was installed to protect it from being defaced.

“We want to make sure that Rideau-Vanier, because it does include a lot of vulnerable populations, is reflective of the people who live there and that we’re preserving our historic monuments,” said councillor for Rideau-Vanier, Stéphanie Plante. “If the population would like to take that down or rename it, I’m absolutely open to those kinds of discussions. But as far as I know, that’s probably another one of many incidents in our ward where people feel like they can be creative with our city infrastructure.”

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