Police probe parent’s complaint over golliwog mural painted EIGHTY years ago

November 19, 2013 | by | 0 Comments

Police are investigating a “hate crime” complaint made by a woman about a primary school mural featuring a golliwog – painted EIGHTY years ago.

The artwork, created in 1936, features scenes from Alice in Wonderland across nine large panels with the image of a golliwog perched on a ledge over the central one.

The historic work was restored in 2011 with a £17,600 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and has pride of place at Wardie Primary School in Edinburgh.

But despite its age and historical significance one furious parent has made a formal complaint to police because she finds it “racially offensive”.

Margaret Neizer-Rocha, 43, saw the painting when she visited the school ahead of plans to send her son there.

She said: “It’s an inappropriate image for a primary school gymnasium and assembly hall.

“It’s one thing if it was a museum piece or an exhibition, where you might explain what a swastika was or Ku Klux Klan outfit.

“It goes back to the American black sambo, the blacked-up face. It’s offensive to me. I find it racially offensive.”

A police spokesman said:  “Police in Edinburgh have received a complaint in relation to a mural at a primary school in the Trinity area.

“Police are now liaising with the City of Edinburgh Council’s education department with regards to this matter.

“Police Scotland treats all reports relating to hate incidents extremely seriously and thoroughly investigate whenever a report of this nature is made.

“We will be liaising with the city council’s education department.”

Edinburgh City Council chiefs admitted they understood “the offensiveness of the image” – but added it had “both historical and artistic importance”.

A council spokesman said:  “The ‘Alice in Wonderland’ mural at Wardie Primary School was painted in 1936 and is of both historical and artistic importance as evidenced by the fact it recently received full Heritage Lottery Funding support to restore the work.

“While we understand the offensiveness of the image, it is in no way indicative of the attitudes of either the school or the Council.

“Our equalities policies and approaches are robustly multi-cultural and anti-racist, promoting diversity and good relationships among pupils.”

Colin McLean, head of HLF Scotland, added: “The Heritage Lottery Fund supported the restoration of a historic mural based on scenes from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at Wardie Primary School.

“We will be discussing this issue with the school over the coming week.”

The mural and Wardie school’s distinctive architecture are part of the international Decorated School project, which is studying art and school buildings with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Jeremy Howard, from the Decorated School project, from the University of St Andrews, said: “This is history: if you start painting it out or get rid of it you’re deceiving people about what views were prevalent in the 1930s.

“I think once children are being taught about issues of race, social issues and human rights, especially as they get to primary 6 or primary 7 [aged 10 to 12], that could definitely be the time to introduce it.

“It seems to me to be a perfect tool for that, saying that in the past the establishment didn’t even blink an eye at having this here, but we do now.”

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