RENTYHORN
  

2008

As a member of the Transatlantic Committee “De-mounting Louis Agassiz”, I made the following intervention. I carried a metal plaque bearing a graphic representation of the slave Renty to the top of an Alpine peak, the Agassizhorn (3946 metres), on the borders of the Swiss cantons of Berne and Valais. In so doing, I took the first step towards renaming the mountain.

This act commemorates the fact that the Swiss-born naturalist and glaciologist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) was an influential racist and pioneering thinker of apartheid, and that the Agassizhorn should be renamed the “Rentyhorn” in honour of the Congolese-born slave Renty, and of those who met similar fates. Agassiz ordered Renty to be photographed on a South Carolina plantation, “to prove the inferiority of the black race”.

After carrying out this artistic act, the Transatlantic Committee “De-Mounting Louis Agassiz” and I submitted a request for the plaque to be permanently fixed to the rocks on the summit, and for the mountain to be renamed. The request was sent to the councils whose jurisdiction includes the Agassizhorn: the authorities of the communes of Grindelwald, Guttannen und Fieschertal; the authorities of the cantons of Berne and Valais; as well as the Executive Board and Advisory Committee of the public trust responsible for UNESCO’s “Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn” World Natural Heritage Area. Recipients of the request included: Benedikt Weibel, former CEO of the Swiss Federal Railway; Adolf Ogi, former member of the Swiss government; Heiner Geissler, former German minister and MP; ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger; and no less than former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The responses to this request will reveal whether, in the case of the Agassizhorn, the Ghanaian Kofi Annan and these other eminent persons can afford to ignore the goals of anti-racism and commemoration of slavery that are so dear to UNESCO.

An international petition (www.rentyhorn.ch) addressed to the Swiss government and its two chambers of parliament, and others, has recently gone on-line. It is designed to tell people (in German, English, French and Italian) about the campaign, and to collect signatures in support of re-naming the mountain. People from all over the world have already submitted their names, and more are being added all the time.

I have carried out this work in close collaboration with Hans Fässler, historian, author and founder of the Transatlantic Committee “De-mounting Louis Agassiz”. More about “De-Mounting Louis Agassiz” at: www.louverture.ch.

A special thank you to Hans Fässler.

Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Collections.

(Info: The fur is artificial.)