Designed by Senegalese architect Pierre Goudiaby, it overlooks the Atlantic Ocean in the Ouakam suburb. Construction began in April 2006, and was completed earlier this year. The payment, reportedly, was made in kind, with 30-40 hectares of land that will be sponsored by a Senegalese businessman.
So the adjective that more clearly defines the mission and the monument is: powerful. Or as Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade said in his phrasing, “it is a salute to cultural excellence and the best of human achievement.”
The fact is the statue is bigger than all of its critics, and even its fans. It is bigger than President Wade who has more transparency about him than those who would sit undercover on the sidelines and quietly plot strategies for enriching their own coffers. It is even bigger than the Statue of Liberty. And perhaps has more personality.
Throughout history there has been no man-made monument built without initial controversy, including the Notre Dame de Paris, African Burial Ground and Ellis Island. The latter in fact is as much a monument to classism and caste, as it professes to be about hope. As Professor William H. Mackey, Jr. would say, Read the history.
And even as we write this, scholars are rocking Liberty’s boat with claims that Auguste Bertholdi’s gift to America was intended as a monument to 19th century freed Africans and the masses of enslaved ancestors forced into subservient humility. For now, it is clad in the symbolism of possibility.
Of note, many of the key representatives of the African Diaspora who traveled to Senegal last weekend at the invitation of the government were prepared to render the event and the African Renaissance Monument as symbolic.
Once there, it was another story.
“I felt special,” our friend and brother Pierre Thiam told us, yesterday. At the ceremonies in Dakar, Thiam, in deep blue-black robe, sat next to the great Randy Weston, in a billowing robe of powder blue to match the Senegalese skies. “It was a special moment for me,” said Pierre. “I sat next to Randy who has made Africa the center of his life and his music. And sitting behind me was the son of Marcus Garvey, the most powerful leader of the early 20th century who proudly vouched for Africa – when it was unpopular. “It was powerful, a day for Africa and the African Diaspora. At that moment of recognition I knew the moment was meant to be, and the spirit all along had been guiding me to it.”
Another friend of Our Time Press said Rev. Jesse Jackson was on point when he declared before heads of state, “We have returned.”
Senegal’s three-day celebration was in tribute to the country’s 50 years of independence as well as the unveiling of the Monument. “It is the destiny of Africa, after four centuries of incomprehensible conflict and turmoil, to now become a continent united by thebest of human achievement, cultural excellence, prosperity, security, peace and progress.”
Tens of thousands gathered in Dakar for the celebration that featured performances, symposia, special exhibitions, parades and the dedication of the Monument.
Representatives of the NAACP, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and many other U.S. organizations were among many heads of state, artists, intellectuals and activists in attendance.? Among prominent Americans taking part were Brother Weston, Rev. Jackson, Benjamin Todd Jealous, Roslyn Brock, Dr. Julius W. Garvey, Dr. Maulana Karenga, Dr. Lonnie Bunch, Rev. Herbert Daughtry, AKON, Richard Gant, Sen. Anthony C. Hill, Sen. Rodney Ellis, Constance Newman, and Debra Fraser-Howse, and so many more..
Under the auspices of President Abdoulaye Wade, the events focused on the future of Africa and place particular emphasis on how all African states can work together to foster and support the economic, cultural, social and political well-being of the entire continent.? At the heart of this vision is the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which offer a platform for progress in ending poverty and hunger, reaching universal education and gender equality, improving child and maternal health, ensuring environmental sustainability, and creating a global partnership for development -all by 2015.
“I am sure that the historic visit by this prestigious American delegation will strengthen ties between the United States and Africa, and reinforce African efforts for sustainable human development, bearing in mind the efforts of UNAIDS and its partners in working to reverse the AIDS epidemic,” said Dr. Djibril Diallo, Chair of the U.S. Leadership Committee for the World Festival of Black Arts (FESMAN) 2010, which organized the U.S. delegation, and Senior Advisor to the Executive Director of UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS).
The commemoration began for the American delegation on April 2nd with a visit to Gor?e Island. On Saturday, April 3 a colloquium of African writers and intellectuals examined and debated the enormous promise of the African Renaissance.? The event was organized by Professor Iba Der Thiam, one of the authors of the UNESCO History of Africa project, and highlighted the role of art and cultural in promoting human development.
Later in the day, the African Renaissance Monument was inaugurated in an event focusing upon the theme of a United States of Africa, an objective supported by President Wade and endorsed by the African Union for realization in 2017.
Sunday, April 4 was devoted to commemorations of Senegal’s 50th year of independence, and highlighted by the appearance of heads of state, prime ministers and guests from around the worldattending parades, cultural events, and festive public ceremonies.
The ideals expressed in the independence celebrations will also be reflected in the World Festival of Black Arts 2010 (FESMAN 2010) scheduled for December in Senegal.
The arts are a vibrant manifestation of Africa’s enormous potential, and musicians, performers, artists, historians will come from Africa and all corners of the world to take part.