The African Renaissance Monument (French: Le Monument de la Renaissance africaine) is a 49m tall bronze statue located on top of one of the twin hills known as Collines des Mamelles, outside of Dakar, Senegal. Built overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in the Ouakam suburb, the statue was designed by the Senegalese architect Pierre Goudiaby after an idea presented by president Abdoulaye Wade and built by a company from North Korea. Site preparation on top of the 100-meter high hill began in 2006, and construction of the bronze statue began 3 April 2008. Originally scheduled for completion in December 2009, delays stretched into early 2010, and the formal dedication occurred on 4 April 2010, Senegal’s “National Day”, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence from France. It is the tallest statue in Africa.
The monument is made of 3-centimetre thick metal sheets and depicts a family group emerging from a mountaintop: a full-length statue of a young woman, a man, and held aloft on the man’s raised left arm, a child resolutely pointing west towards the sea. Construction of the bronze statue group was carried out by the North Korean firm Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies.
The project was launched by then Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade who considered it part of Senegal’s prestige projects, aimed at providing monuments to herald a new era of African Renaissance.
On 3 April 2010, the African Renaissance Monument was unveiled in Dakar in front of 19 African heads of state, including President of Malawi and the African Union Bingu wa Mutharika, Jean Ping of the African Union Commission and the Presidents of Benin, Cape Verde, Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania and Zimbabwe, as well as representatives from North Korea, and Jesse Jackson and musician Akon, both from the United States. Everyone was given a tour.
President 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 its destiny into its hands”. President Bingu said “This monument does not belong to Senegal. It belongs to the African people wherever we are”.Reverend Jackson said “This renaissance statue is a powerful idea from a powerful mind. This is dedicated to the journey of our ancestors, enslaved but not slaves”.
Thousands of people protested against “all the failures of [President] Wade’s regime, the least of which is this horrible statue” on the city’s streets beforehand, with riot police deployed to maintain control. Deputy leader of the opposition Ndeye Fatou Toure described the monument as an “economic monster and a financial scandal in the context of the current [economic] crisis”.
Expense : The colossal statue has been criticized for its cost at US$ 27 million (£16.6m). The payment was made in kind, with 30 to 40 hectares of land that will be sponsored by a Senegalese businessman.
Style : opposition leaders have also questioned the style of the project, labelling it “Stalinist”, while others say that the body shapes are not African. Local imams argue that a statue depicting a human figure is idolatrous, and object to the perceived immodesty of the semi-nude male and female figures.
In December 2009, president Abdoulaye Wade apologised to Senegal’s Christian minority for comparing the statue to Jesus Christ.
Revenue: The project has also attracted controversy due to Wade’s claim to the intellectual property rights of the statue, and insisting that he is entitled to 35 percent of the profits raised. Opposition figures have sharply criticised Wade’s plan to claim intellectual property rights, insisting that the president cannot claim copyright over ideas conceived as function of his public office.
Local artists: Sow, a world-renowned Senegalese sculptor, also objected to the use of North Korean builders, saying it was anything but a symbol of African renaissance and nothing to do with art
DAKAR, Senegal — A muscled man emerges from a volcano. His left arm holds a baby aloft toward the West, his right arm pulls a scantily clad woman behind him. This is the Monument to the African Renaissance, currently being erected here. It is supposed to symbolize Africa emerging from centuries of oppression, but the statue has left women in Dakar asking: Whose renaissance exactly?
“This woman [in the statue], she is completely subjugated to man. It’s the man making the decisions. It’s the man as protector, and that doesn’t fit with the African reality,” said historian Penda Mbow. While the half-naked man represents physical strength and control, the woman is a “sex object,” Mbow said. She sees the female figure as an afterthought, an appendage, an accessory.
A Senegalese columnist called the statue an example of “revolting sexism” and wondered whether any women was consulted in the design of the monument.
It’s but one of many criticisms to the bronze behemoth going up on one of Dakar’s hills overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Others say the statue, which dominates Dakar’s horizon, is wasteful and disrespectful of Muslim culture.
At 164 feet tall — just higher than the Statue of Liberty — the monument is the pet project of Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade. He claims it will become a tourist attraction as popular as the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty.
Rumblings of discontent erupted this fall when Wade announced that he, as “intellectual creator,” would be taking 35 percent of all tourist revenue the state monument earns.
Supporters say the giant statue will draw tourists but critics charge the colossus — estimated to cost $27 million and built by North Koreans — highlights how disconnected Wade, 83, has become from the daily struggles of Senegalese citizens.
Politicians charge that Senegal’s economy is declining and health and education are in crisis, yet massive public funds are being squandered on the statue.
About 95 percent of Senegal’s 12 million people are Muslim and some of the country’s imams spoke out against the statue in December, citing wastefulness and Muslim restrictions against representing the human form. Wade shot back that, at church, Christians pray to a man named Jesus and was later forced to apologize to the country’s offended Christians, who protested in Dakar.