The African Renaissance Monument

Go Lean Commentary

The commentaries of the Go Lean…Caribbean blogs have often addressed the Caribbean Diaspora. But for many people of Caribbean heritage, they are a member of a larger Diaspora, the African Diaspora. Every Caribbean member-state – except for the French Territory Saint Barthélemy and the new Indo-Guyanese immigrant reality – has a majority population of Black or African ethnicity. So most people of the region have been affected by events that took place in Western Africa during the Atlantic Slave Trade. Any symbolism or artistic expression commemorating this historic sacrifice of Africa to the Caribbean genome should be acknowledged, promoted and celebrated.

This prominent statue in Dakar, Senegal, the African Renaissance Monument, is the epitome of such a symbolism.

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This monument should be a World Heritage Site.

This subject aligns with the book Go Lean…Caribbean which details a plan to promote World Heritage Sites (Page 248) in the Caribbean region. The book also asserts that there are good economic returns to be harnessed by communities investing in regional artists and the eco-systems surrounding the business of the arts.

This commentary continues that pattern, established in the book. The following encyclopedic details provides a role model for how the Caribbean can further develop this industry space:

Title: African Renaissance Monument – Source: Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia (Retrieved 02/08/2015 from:

The African Renaissance Monument 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 (in office from year 2000 to 2012) and built by Mansudae Overseas Projects, a company from North Korea.[1] Site preparation on top of the 100-meter high hill began in 2006, and construction of the bronze statue began 3 April 2008.[2] 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.[3] It is the tallest statue in Africa.

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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.[4]

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.[3][5] Everyone was given a tour.[3][5]

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”.[6] President Bingu said “This monument does not belong to Senegal. It belongs to the African people wherever we are”.[7]


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.[3] 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”.

The colossal statue has been criticized for its cost at US$ 27 million (£16.6m).[1] The payment was made in kind, with 30 to 40 hectares of land that will be sponsored by a Senegalese businessman.[8]

Senegalese opposition leaders have also questioned the style of the project, labelling it “Stalinist“, while art critics have pointed out that the body shapes are cartoon-like, with only vaguely African facial features.[1] It has also been suggested that the monument is a stark representation of the macho sexism of African authoritarian rulers.[9] The statue’s design has been derided internationally because of false claims of its Senegalese origin, actually having been designed by a Romanian architect and built by a North Korean sculpting company famous for various projects and large statues throughout Africa since the 1970s.[10] It was a poorly received piece by art critics around the world after its much-delayed unveiling in 2010, and has been compared by some to the infamous (and now-abandoned) Christopher Columbus statue project that was underway in Cataño, Puerto Rico in the late 1990s and early 2000s.[11] Local Imams (Islamic Spiritual Leaders) argue that a statue depicting a human figure is idolatrous, and object to the perceived immodesty of the semi-nude male and female figures.[12]

In December 2009, president Abdoulaye Wade apologised to Senegal’s Christian minority for comparing the statue to Jesus Christ.[1]

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.[12] Opposition figures have sharply criticized Wade’s plan to claim intellectual property rights, insisting that the president cannot claim copyright over ideas conceived as a function of his public office.[13][1]

Local artists
Ousmane 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.[14]

The book Go Lean…Caribbean is a economic elevation roadmap for the Caribbean, not Africa. But there are many lessons for the Caribbean to glean from this African Renaissance Monument project: good, bad and ugly. Whereas, this monument project does not have the economic impact of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, it has potential.

This discussion of “art in the public domain” is not just academic. Community pride, jobs, and the growth of the regional economy is involved. This point aligns with the objectives of the Go Lean book, in that it serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). This effort will harness the individual genius abilities (micro) of artists so as to elevate the arts and the economic impact on their related communities (macros). To glean these economic benefits, the charter for the regional “art world” must be bigger than just sculpture; it must also include paintings, fashion, music, film and performing arts (dance & theater). The CU will employ strategies, tactics and implementations to impact its prime directives, defined with the following 3 statements:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion & create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines.

The Go Lean book identified this vision early in the book (Page 13 & 14) in the following pronouncements in the Declaration of Interdependence:

Preamble: As the history of our region and the oppression, suppression and repression of its indigenous people is duly documented, there is no one alive who can be held accountable for the prior actions, and so we must put aside the shackles of systems of repression to instead formulate efficient and effective systems to steer our own destiny.
As the colonial history of our region was initiated to create economic expansion opportunities for our previous imperial masters, the structures of government instituted in their wake have not fostered the best systems for prosperity of the indigenous people.

xxi.      Whereas the preparation of our labor force can foster opportunities and dictate economic progress for current and future generations, the Federation must ensure that educational and job training opportunities are fully optimized for all residents of all member-states, with no partiality towards any gender or ethnic group. The Federation must recognize and facilitate excellence in many different fields of endeavor, including sciences, languages, arts, music and sports. This responsibility should be executed without incurring the risks of further human flight, as has been the past history.

xxxiii.      Whereas the cultural arts and music of the region are germane to the quality of Caribbean life, and the international appreciation of Caribbean life, the Federation must implement the support systems to teach, encourage, incentivize, monetize and promote the related industries for arts and music in domestic and foreign markets. These endeavors will make the Caribbean a better place to live, work and play.

The foregoing African Renaissance Monument is on the Eastern side of the Atlantic; there is also a monument effort on the Western side of the Atlantic: the “Vicissitudes” and other features in the Moilinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park in the waters off the Caribbean island of Grenada. The voyage across the Atlantic was referred to as the Middle Passage, a segment in the Slave Trade Triangle. Many victims, African captives designated to be sold in slavery, did not survive the Middle Passage. The Vicissitudes are in honor of the African Ancestors who were thrown overboard during the voyage; (retrieved from:

1. “Vicissitudes” – According to the primary professional Artist, British Sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor:

“Vicissitudes depicts a circle of figures, all linked through holding hands. These are life-size casts taken from a group of children of diverse ethnic background. Circular in structure … the work both withstands strong currents and replicates one of the primary geometric shapes, evoking ideas of unity and continuum. … The sculpture proposes growth, chance, and natural transformation. It shows how time and environment impact on and shape the physical body. Children by nature are adaptive to their surroundings. Their use within the work highlights the importance of creating a sustainable and well-managed environment, a space for future generations.”

2. Amateur Projects – Cast student faces in the side of a large underwater stone: Theophilus Albert Marryshow Community College

In March 2007, a project was initiated with Helen Hayward of T.A. Marryshow Community College (Grenada) to produce a series of works for the Molinere sculpture park. Workshops were planned with A-level Art and Design students; (senior exams – General Certificate of Education or GCE – from the University of London). Each student was required to produce a life cast of their face, to form an installation two meters deep around the shoreline of Molinere Bay.

The project aimed to encourage local artists to contribute further works to the site and provide a arena for communities to appreciate and highlight the marine processes evident in their local environment.

The students were taught a range of skills including life-casting, cement casting and sculpting. The final pieces were installed by Jason [de Caires Taylor] on 25th April 2007.

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The following news article relates the coverage received at the project’s implementation:

Title: Underwater Sculpture Park off Grenada is stunning and unique
Sub-title: Jason de Caires Taylor is an internationally recognized sculptor with a difference.

December 1, 2008 – Instead of bleak urban backdrops for his creations, [artist Jason de Caires Taylor] has crafted a stunning and unique underwater sculpture park in the shallow waters off the West Indies island of Grenada.

His desire to create striking and meaningful art forms and his love of the underwater world led him to explore the intricate relationships between art and the environment.

For Grenada, this has resulted in a series of beautiful marine seascapes that have formed a series of artificial reefs, drawing new life into areas which have been damaged by nature’s raw power and mans intervention.

Jason discusses his work in a video interview with Miranda Krestovnikoff, one of the UK faces of a new global web TV channel, The Underwater Channel.

Miranda, also a BBC One Show / Coast presenter, explores Jason’s motivations and shows footage of his installations demonstrating the beauty of the structures and the way they interact with their environment. In some zones, the shifting sands of the ocean floor can change the whole viewing experience from moment to moment.

The sculptures are sited in clear, shallow waters to allow easy access by divers, snorkellers and those in glass-bottomed boats. Jason is keen to engage local people, particularly children, in his work to build a direct relationship with and understanding of their own precious natural resource.

The physical nature of the underwater world is vastly different from that of dry land. Objects appear 25 per cent larger underwater, and as a consequence they also appear closer. Colours alter as light is absorbed and reflected at different rates, with the depth of the water affecting this further.

The large number of angles and perspectives from which the sculptures can be viewed increase the unique experience of encountering the works.

His first work, Grace Reef, was built in a bay where the coral growth and natural habitat had been decimated by Hurricane Ivan. It comprises 16 statues, each cast from a local Grenadian woman.

Located across an expansive underwater area the work draws marine life to a zone that has suffered substantial and sustained storm damage. The direction and strengths of currents mean that entire sections of the work become covered, hidden and lost. At other times figures emerge and are fully visible.

Another major work is Vicissitudes comprising the extraordinary visual impact of a circle of 26 life-size children of diverse ethnic background, all holding hands and facing outwards.

The cement finish and chemical composition of Vicissitudes actively promotes the colonisation of coral and marine life. This natural process echoes the changes experienced through growing up and shows how time and environment impact on and shape the physical body.

Children by nature are adaptive to their surroundings and their use within the work highlights the importance of creating a sustainable and well-managed environment, a space for future generations.

“This piece took six months to create and weighs about 15 tons” Jason tells Miranda. “Consequently I had to install it in sections and it attracted quite a lot of local attention as parts of it sat outside the front of my house!”.

Un-Still life is a beautiful depiction of the essence of growth and change in the marine environment which mirrors the composition of still life tableaux.

On a table is an arrangement of cement objects; a vase, bowl and fruit. In contrast to established ideas of stasis the work is constantly changing, remaining a work in progress as living coral builds layers onto its surface and marine creatures take up residence in its tiny nooks and crannies.

This colonization becomes a physical equivalent to the conventional development of drawing and painting.

Jason currently has 65 stunning installations in place. The majority of his work is in Grenada, but he also has additional projects in the UK and Europe. Contracts have been agreed for the first phase of a new underwater project in Mexico, placed within the National Marine Park of Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Nisuc. Jason works out of his studio in London.

VIDEO: Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park, Molinere Bay, Marine Protected Area, Grenada, West Indies –

Published by Louis Kahn (c) on Apr 1, 2012 – Video shot while scuba diving in Grenada at the Underwater Sculpture

The African Renaissance Monument in Senegal should be a World Heritage Site.

The stunning and unique Underwater Sculpture Park in Grenada should be a World Heritage Site; and similar expressions should be duplicated throughout the Caribbean region.

Imagine eco-tourism tours, SCUBA divers, glass-bottom boats and sub-marines, to this site and other monuments erected in kind.

Previous Go Lean blog/commentaries related artistic endeavors in the region and how they have impacted the communities; consider this sample as follows: Sir Sidney Poitier – ‘Breaking New Ground’ in the Film Arts ‘We Built This City …’ on Music and Show-business Forging Change: Music Moves People Art Basel Miami – a Testament to the Spread of Art & Culture Caribbean Role Model for the Arts/Fashion – Oscar De La Renta: RIP How ‘The Lion King’ roared into history Music Role Model Berry Gordy – No Town Like Motown Humanities Advocate – Maya Angelou: RIP Caribbean Music Man: Bob Marley – The legend lives on!

The Slave Trade and Middle Passage victimized millions of innocent people. The world must never forget the travesty and sacrifice of the African people. The Bible makes a related statement at Isaiah 56:5 (NET Bible): “I will set up within my temple and my walls a monument that will be better than sons and daughters. I will set up a permanent monument for them that will remain”.

Now is the time for all of the Caribbean to lean-in to the following community ethos, strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies detailed in the book Go Lean … Caribbean to foster remembrances and memorials in the region:

Community Ethos – Deferred Gratification – African Diaspora Experience Page 21
Community Ethos – People Respond to Incentives in Predictable Ways Page 21
Community Ethos – Consequences of Choices Lie in the Future Page 21
Community Ethos – Return on Investments Page 24
Community Ethos – Ways to Foster Genius – High Art Intelligence Page 27
Community Ethos – Ways to Promote Happiness Page 36
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Strategic – Vision – Integrating Region in to a Single Market Page 45
Strategic – Mission – Preserve Caribbean Ecology Page 46
Tactical – Fostering a Technocracy Page 64
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Culture Administration Page 81
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Fairgrounds Administration Page 83
Implementation – Steps to Implement Self-Governing Entities (SGE’s) Page 105
Implementation – Ways to Deliver Page 109
Planning – 10 Big Ideas for the Caribbean Region Page 127
Planning – Ways to Make the Caribbean Better Page 131
Planning – Ways to Better Manage Caribbean Image Page 133
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Create Jobs Page 152
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Governance Page 168
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Libraries – Creative Exhibits & Archives Page 187
Advocacy – Ways to Enhance Tourism – Eco-Tourism Page 190
Advocacy – Ways to Promote Fairgrounds – Art Colonies as SGE’s Page 192
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Public Works – Aesthetic & Practical Page 175
Advocacy – Ways to Better Manage Natural Resources – World Heritage Sites Page 183
Advocacy – Ways to Impact the Diaspora Page 217
Advocacy – Ways to Preserve Caribbean Heritage Page 218
Advocacy – Ways to Improve the Arts Page 230
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Urban Living – Access to the Arts and Culture Page 234
Advocacy – Ways to Promote World-Heritage-Sites – Petition UNESCO for more… Page 248
Appendix – Taos (New Mexico) Artist Colony Page 291
Appendix – List of 21 World Heritage Sites in the Caribbean region Page 330

Now is the time for all of the Caribbean, the people and governing institutions, to lean-in for the empowerments described in the book Go Lean…Caribbean. This is a big deal for regional artists and art institutions. This book provides the turn-by-turn directions for how to monetize the arts and foster genius potential. By pursuing the strategies, tactics, and implementations of this roadmap, we do not only impact the artists; we also impact the whole world.

“Artists have a unique power to change minds and attitudes” – President Obama urging to the Grammy’s audience (musical artists) on February 8, 2015.

The Caribbean needs change…and empowerments (jobs, economic growth and brand/image enhancement); plus we need to always remember the great sacrifices of the others that came before us, and those that did not survive.


Download the book Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

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