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  • Writer's picturePaul G. Chandler

ArtSpeaks: Africa #2 – Dakar, Senegal: "Hope Paves A Way Forward"

Updated: Jun 9

"African Renaissance Monument"

There is a fresh wind of hope blowing throughout the country of Senegal following their recent presidential election. The new president, Bassirou Diomaye Faye (known simply as “Diomaye”), had been imprisoned by the previous government under trumped up charges, was released just 10 days before the election date, and won 54% of the vote. He is only 44 years of age! One of his first actions as the new president was to meet with the previous president, the very man who led a government that had imprisoned him. The Senegalese are magnanimous to their core, and not only have much to be proud of culturally, but they also have a lot to teach us in the West, as we find ourselves increasingly polarized.

I had the opportunity of visiting a remarkable sculpture here in Dakar that dominates the skyline. Considered one of the largest sculptures in the world, it is known as the African Renaissance Monument. It is a 52 meter (171 ft) tall bronze statue overlooking the Atlantic Ocean designed by the Senegalese architect Pierre Goudiaby. One can take an elevator to the very top – inside the hat of the male figure.

While it is quite overwhelming in size, and also considered controversial in numerous ways, the sculpture communicates a powerful message of hope for Africans. The sculpture depicts an African family being liberated, with the father and mother figures rising victoriously out of rock - which symbolizes the suppression colonialism had on African cultural and economic development. The child being held on the father’s shoulders symbolizes a hopeful future…a future led by them and on their terms, and not outside powers.

The monument’s message is one of symbolic importance in terms of Senegal’s future, and of Africa more generally. Inside the monument is a most interesting display of life-size sculptures showing Africa’s rich cultural diversity, as well as its complicated history in terms of its relationship with the West.

It was most encouraging to see class after class of school children visiting the monument, leaving hopeful, inspired that their destiny is in their own hands.

Take hope!


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