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calendar   Sunday - April 04, 2010

the grand unveiling

Monument de la Renaissance Africaine

Dakar, Senegal



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Senegal on Saturday unveiled a colossal statue during a lavish ceremony amid reports of criticism over the monument’s construction at a time when the western African nation is struggling financially.

The 164-foot structure—about a foot taller than the Statue of Liberty—shows the figures of a man, a woman and a child, arms outstretched, facing the Atlantic Ocean.

President Abdoulaye Wade says the statue, which he designed, is a monument to Africa’s renaissance. Critics say the opulent copper structure is merely the product of the president’s own self-indulgent vision and poor governance.

Oh, the objections are more than that. They’re more like a laundry list

Senegal is the westernmost country in Africa. It sits “at the back of the elephant’s ear” of the continent. Dakar is the westernmost city in the country. This statue does not stand at the westernmost point in the city. That’s a small isthmus a mile to the northwest where a rather run down Club Med resides for the surfers who come to ride the waves just off the coast. Instead, this new Colossus of Wade stands not astride the harbor, but between the ends of the two main runways to Dakar’s international airport. Thus it will be the first and last thing any airborne tourist sees in Dakar. Situated along the north end of the controversial - and only - 4 lane highway in the city, the Route de la Corniche Ouest, that separates the beachfront properties from the slums, and right by Avenue Cheik Anta Diop, this grand copper edifice commands one of the choicer parcels of land in the city, rising on a hill right over the Mosque de la Divinite, a few hundred yards to the southeast. (un?)Fortunately, as the child in the man’s arms points west, the view from the mosque is not an upskirt of the copper lady’s wind blown bit of wrapping, but the back side of the “volcano” the family is rising up from.

Senegal has been independent for 50 years now, and that fact is celebrated by this giant statue. That, and the generalized notion that Africa in general is rising up, growing up, and ready to meet the future head on. Ok, it also represents whatever anybody reads into it, like Jesse Jackson.

“This renaissance statue is a powerful idea from a powerful mind,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson in remarks to the crowd of hundreds waving flags at the foot of the lighted monument. “This is dedicated to the journey of our ancestors, enslaved but not slaves.”

Sure Jesse, if you say so. I wonder if the little kid isn’t pointing back to Columbia, where all the cocaine that fuels Senegal’s economy is coming from. Or else he’s pointing the way towards the new world - “daddy, jobs and food, that way!” while pop grabs his woman and skedaddles.

Anyway, it’s a great honking thing, it’s got everybody in western Africa all wound up, and it was officially unveiled yesterday. Next time you’re in Senegal, stop by for a visit.



But oh, the drama. The controversy! Egad.

Senegal yesterday kicked off ceremonies to inaugurate a contested statue marking 50 years of independence after thousands marched to demand the president resign over the multi-million dollar monument.

President Abdoulaye Wade was joined by scores of dignitaries, including African heads of state and representatives from around the world, at the base of the bronze colossus, which is higher than the US Statue of Liberty.

Situated on a hill overlooking Dakar, the North Korean-built monument - whose cost is estimated at more than €15 million - has been attacked as a wasteful extravagance in hard economic times.

Riot police patrolled nearby streets earlier in the day as demonstrators held up banners demanding the president’s resignation.

“The people demand ethical governance and reject the gangster management of the Wade clan,” read one placard.

Deputy opposition leader Ndeye Fatou Toure said the statue was an “economic monster and a financial scandal in the context of the current crisis,” in a country where half the population lives below the poverty line.

Championed by Wade, the 50-metre monument has caused a mixture of anger over its cost, and bewilderment over its style.

It depicts a muscular man emerging from a volcano with a scantily clad woman in tow and holding a baby aloft in his left arm, pointing West towards the Ocean.

DAKAR (Reuters) - Soaring above the Dakar skyline, the nearly finished monument to the African Renaissance in Senegal’s capital is billed as a symbol of Africa’s rise from “centuries of ignorance, intolerance and racism”.

But critics of the bronze family of man, woman and infant—at 50 metres tall just higher than New York’s Statue of Liberty—say it only goes to show that even one of the continent’s strongest democracies must put up with the whims of its rulers.

President Abdoulaye Wade, who has long styled himself a champion of the poor on the world stage, sparked the furore by declaring himself the “intellectual owner” of the monument and so entitled to a 35 percent cut from future tourist revenues.

Wade, 83, who is expected to seek another term in office at elections in 2012, said the monument commemorated the entire continent. “It brings to life our common destiny,” Reuters reported him saying at the launch ceremony. “Africa has arrived in the 21st century standing tall and more ready than ever to take its destiny into its hands.”

Wade has faced criticism for spending so much money on the structure when Dakar residents living in its shadow endure regular power blackouts and flooding. He has angered both Senegal’s Christian minority and some within the Muslim majority population.

Wade apologised to the former group after likening the monument to Christ, while some imams have condemned the Soviet realist-style statue as idolatrous. Other have expressed concern at the thigh-length hemline skirt worn by the female figure.

Not only criticised for its enormous cost, the figure has also been slated by the country’s majority Muslim community, who disagree with works which take on a human form.

People are so frustrated by this,” says opposition leader Abdoulaye Bathily.

Bathily says the statue is the product of a power-drunk president. “The economy has collapsed. ... The education system is in a crisis. The health system is in crisis. And yet Abdoulaye Wade is squandering public money,” Bathily says. “So all these things, people are seeing it, and it is creating so much frustration.”

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Dreams vs. Reality



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Architect’s vision of the completed colossus


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 04/04/2010 at 01:08 PM   
Filed Under: • AfricaArchitecture •  
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