Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The African Renaissance Monument

A view from the hill upon which the monument sits. There are 195 steps to climb to stand at the foot of the bronze.
I took this picture so that you could get an idea about the scale of the monument. Note the size of the onlookers and the foot of the monument.
Many Senegalese do not appreciate this monument. The man, woman, and child looking and pointing toward the west represents the Renaissance, or rebirth of Africa after the slave trade. The president, Abdoulaye Wade, commissioned this monument as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of independence from French colonial rule and a message of hope to the youth of the country. It was designed by a Senegalese, Pierre Goudiaby, but produced by a North Korean company. Here is what I understand about the reason most local people groan at the sight of this statue. To begin with, since Senegal is 95% Muslim, one should call this a monument rather than a statue because the Muslim religion does not make images in human form in their art. The expense was enormous, 27 million U.S. dollars. The complication is that the people of West Africa see challenges all over their cities including poverty and the need for a better infrastructure. How does the government justify, they ask, the expense of building this monument when there is such great need at more basic levels? Also, as noted, this country is mostly Muslim. The statue's (I mean monument's) design shows the woman with part of her body exposed, it is in a Stalinist style, and the bodies do not look like Africans. Abdoulaye Wade said, "It brings to life our common destiny. Africa has arrived in the 21st century standing tall and more ready than ever to take destiny into its hands." So there it is.
Mame Coumba Ndoye, left, chats with a vendor at the street near the African Renaissance Monument. Mame Coumba is assistant to the Dakar coordinator of our Fulbright program. She is also the administrative assistant to the Director of West African Research Center (WARC).