Maggi Hambling has apologised for comments made last month to students where she made light of slavery.
IpswichSpy reports the 68-year-old lesbian artist and sculptor yesterday said: “As somebody who has been fighting prejudice, in all its forms, all my life, I am very upset that my comments, intended as jokes, were misconstrued as racist.
“In supporting the Ipswich Art School tirelessly over the years, in all it does, it was never my intention to upset anybody.”
She told students last month at the University Campus Suffolk in Ipswich that the Oscar-winning film 12 Years A Slave was “frightfully boring” and that she “wouldn’t mind a few slaves” herself.
“In the end I didn’t care about the fucking slave. Anyway, slaves would be very handy. I wouldn’t mind a few,” she added.
Jason Haye – the only black student in the room at the time – said he did not find the comments funny unlike the others in the audience who erupted into laughter.
He told The Voice: “The comment was shocking, but what really made me feel let down was that [some of] my fellow students and even lecturers were laughing.”
The third-year student created a protest video, which he posted on YouTube.
But he says staff told him to remove it in case it triggered legal action from the artist.
University Campus Suffolk said it had not received an official complaint.
A spokesman added that University Provost and Chief Executive Richard Lister had met Mr Haye and said the university is “committed to ensuring that each person is treated with dignity, respect and courtesy”.
Simon Woolley, of Operation Black Vote, slammed Hambling and said: “Another way of looking at this would be to ask anyone in the Jewish community if jokes about the Holocaust are funny, and/or acceptable? No, of course not.
“So why should Black people find the rape, torture, murder and slavery of over 20 million people amusing?
“Nobody has misconstrued Hambling’s comments. They are racially offensive and if she had a shred of good grace, -which I doubt- she’d apologise, to the students, to the university and others she’s offended.”
Hambling was awarded a CBE In the 2010 New Year’s Honours List. She has exhibited widely throughout the UK, as well as in the US and Ireland, and has won numerous awards.
She is best known for a sculpture of Oscar Wilde in central London and the Scallop, a 13ft piece on Aldeburgh beach in Suffolk dedicated to Benjamin Britten.