With a height of about 50 meters, the African Renaissance Monument is the highest statue in the continent, surpassing the famed statue of the Statue of Liberty in New York City. Located outside of Dakar, Senegal – on top of one of the twin hills known as Collines des Mamelles. A Senegalese architect – Pierre Goudiaby, designed the statue that was constructed in the Ouakam suburb with a view of the Atlantic Ocean.
The monument was unveiled by then President Abdoulaye Wade on the 3rd of April 2010, a day before Senegal celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence, in front of more than 20 African leaders. The statue was presented during the unveiling event as a reaction to the general perception that African states “need symbols of optimism for the future” because they are still fighting to find their feet half a century after independence.
The monument symbolizes the victory of African liberation and represents the battle for post-colonial African identity. It explains how the continent is transitioning from the colonial era of resistance against tyranny to a new generation of “re-birth” within the global scene.
“An Africa emerging from the bowels of the earth, leaving obscurantism to go towards the light” is depicted, with the guy holding his wife by the waist while carrying his child on his biceps. The monument does, in fact, depict an African family with their heads firmly turned to the northwest.
The Senegalese architect Pierre Goudiaby was entrusted with the prestige project for the monument. Although Ousmane Sow, a well-known Senegalese artist, initiated the project, President Wade drew it and had 35% of the copyright. Sow has left the project due to a dispute with Abdoulaye Wade.
But controversy dominated the rest of the story. Due to its proximity to corruption and dictatorship, it has actively courted criticism. Its outrageous cost, participation of North Korean architects, and physical design have all led to criticisms of the statue as being anti-Islamic and sexist, raising issues about who exactly the monument is for and what function it serves in the so-called “African Renaissance.”
According to the monument’s administrator, it is a very sturdy monument that is extremely well crafted and can last at least 1,200 years. However, only five years after it was first put in place, the monument started to deteriorate due to weather damage.
The structure price quickly generated intense controversy, given that Senegal was in a severe economic crisis at the time of the monument’s construction. They had one of the world’s lowest GDPs per capita when the statue’s construction started in 2002.
However, the anticipated monument cost was $27 million, which the country could not afford. Some have referred to it as a “multi-million-dollar Presidential extravagance.” People lamented that their fellow citizens were fed up with poor governance and lavishly misused funds.
The monument has additionally come under fire for having “unusually sexist implications” since it clearly depicts a strong man lifting a lady and child in the role of the family’s head. In addition to the woman’s revealing clothing offending the country’s Islamic religious leaders, the monument’s sheer size and stature places it higher than the city’s largest Minaret, which some read as showing the man’s ability to “reach higher than God.”
However, while some have argued that the monument hasn’t had the desired effect on national identity or African pride, others have asserted that it represents a much-needed step towards the realization of African identity and place in the world, proudly dominating a physical skyline similar to the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, and Christ the Redeemers despite its criticisms.
Monuments serve as a reminder of our past. Our history is preserved through monuments. They stand in as a symbol of civilization’s pride and a national treasure. They enable us to understand better our history and the state of our thinking, knowledge, and progress. They give importance to our past in a way. The African Renaissance Monument displays the determination of Black people, who have endured some of the worst human disasters, to reclaim their destiny by surviving slavery, colonization, and dictatorships. It represents the African people who emerge from darkness, ills, and prejudice and moves forward to life.