‘I Am Queen Mary’ Receives Permanent Site for History Making Sculpture

Artists Jeannette Ehlers and La Vaughn Belle pose with a piece of their sculpture “I Am Queen Mary.”
Artists Jeannette Ehlers and La Vaughn Belle pose with a piece of their sculpture “I Am Queen Mary.” (Submitted photo)

In 2018, history was made when artists La Vaughn Belle and Jeannette Ehlers created and launched the first public monument of a black woman in Copenhagen, Denmark. The seminal sculpture generated global awareness and acclaim on the centennial year commemorating Denmark’s sale of the Virgin Islands to the United States on March 31, 1917.

On March 4, 2021, the Danish government granted permission to permanently install the groundbreaking public artwork ‘I Am Queen Mary’ in front of a former colonial warehouse in Copenhagen. To now build the permanent sculpture and a twin monument on St. Croix – an international crowdfunding campaign and an innovative augmented reality program will also be unveiled for the first time to support the rebel queen being immortalized.

The monument references Mary Thomas, who came to be named as one of the “Queens of the Fireburn,” leading the largest labor revolt in Danish history in 1878. Fifty plantations and most of the town of Frederiksted on St. Croix were burned in protest of slavery-like conditions.

Following significant damage to the sculpture over the last two years, a fundraising campaign to raise $1.5 million for a bronze casting of the figure and a reinforced coral stone plinth will launch on June 8. The funds will ensure that this towering monument at the entrance to Copenhagen’s port acknowledges the legacy of slavery and European colonialism for generations to come. To allow for public support, the kick-starter campaign will collect donations to rebuild this important landmark.

An exclusive augmented reality experience will launch with a digitized version of the figure in dynamic and never seen before detail. The augmented reality version uses cutting-edge browser-based technology that eliminates the need for an app. It’s designed to hold space for the figure and generate new conversations around the digital avatar that will be circulated during the crowdfunding campaign. Visitors will be able to see and walk around the completed 1:1 AR sculpture, take a photo and share it in support.

“We are so grateful to the Danish Ministry of Culture for recognizing our work in this way and ensuring that this significant part of our shared history will be told,” said Jeannette Ehlers.

“By making I Am Queen Mary, we have created a space for black people to see ourselves in an empowering manner in public space,” La Vaughn Belle said. “I Am Queen Mary centers the narratives of the courageous human beings who fought for their dignity and their survival under the harshest of living and working conditions. They deserve to be remembered.”

Danish Minister of Culture, Joy Mogensen said, “Only if we remember our past can we get well into the future. Therefore, we must be aware of history in all its diversity and all its nuances. I Am Queen Mary will be a strong and lasting physical memory of a dark side of Danish history, which we must not forget – and a concrete reminder in Copenhagen’s cityscape that Denmark’s history is created by many incredibly different people. Not just by kings and war heroes.”

The crowdfunding campaign will launch on Kickstarter on June 8; visitors will be able to experience the augmented reality monument on any mobile device on June 19, with live streaming of the event at 10 a.m. (EST). Read and participate on www.iamqueenmary.com or follow the campaign at @supportiamqueenmary.