Senegal, long held up as a great example of African democracy has it seems slipped into the mire of unreasonable corruption and despotism. What else could possibly explain the actions of President Abdoulaye Wade? Wade commissioned the building of the “African Renaissance”, it was billed as Africa’s Statue of Liberty, an artistic colossus to celebrate the continent’s renaissance. To many in Senegal, it has become nothing but a monumental scandal.
A statue that stands taller than the statue of Liberty is surely something to be proud of, a master stroke, the ultimate statement of a countries wealth and intent? Perhaps if the country could truly afford such a statement. The truth is that Senegal cannot t afford to make such a statement when so many of her people live below the poverty line.
Moving beyond the material cost of the statue which some experts are quoting as high as 30 million dollars. Then there is the moral implication of such a statue.? Firstly let us think of what such a vast sum of money could actually have been spent on;? Schools, Roads, Hospitals and Agriculture.
Then we have to consider the religious communities who are offended by the colossus. Both Muslims and Christians have been offended by both the pose, positioning and and attire of the figures in the statue. The female figure is scantily clad, showing all her leg and clearly defined breast. The artist has made offers to remodel the piece, but surely this would only push the price tag up further.
All this seems bad enough, yet then add insult to injury the President is claiming “intellectual property rights” for the statue, and has announced that he will take 35% of all tourist income that the statue attracts. Ousseynou Nar Gueye, an intellectual property law expert, disputes the validity of the claim.
“As a designer, he is entitled to have a payment, if ever he was the designer, but that would be a down-payment which is paid once,” he said.
The final insult is that the statue was not modeled or built by Africans. North Korea were handed the contract. The statue itself is meant to symbolise African independence and the optimism of a new Africa.Why was the Staue not built by homegrown artists like Ousmane Sow. Mr Sow himself has criticised the sculpture.
When asked about his opinion of the sculpture he said :
“It’s a wasted opportunity. It’s an enormous canvas but there is no detail. What we have ended up with is aesthetically childish and banal in the extreme. It is anything but a symbol of African renaissance and it’s nothing to do with art,” Mr Sow said. “The president’s motivation is totally personal, it’s about leaving something behind. He’s not been brilliant on the political playing field so instead he has opted for a concrete legacy ? literally”
What do you think is this sculpture a good or a bad thing for Senegal?