The African Renaissance Monument in Senegal is a magnificent, unprecedented world heritage site to behold. Taller than the Statue of Liberty and the largest statue in Africa, the 160-foot bronze structure has become a signature tourist site for Africa and a symbol for the African Diaspora worldwide. The statue is the brainchild of the former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade, who will be honored for it as an inaugural member of the Hall of Fame at the African Diaspora World Tourism Awards ceremony in Atlanta on March 23rd, 2013. Former President Wade says that the “Monument to the African Renaissance" is meant to symbolize Africa’s potential, rebirth and liberation from "centuries of ignorance, intolerance and racism.
Located just outside Senegal’s capital of Dakar on top of one of the twin hills known as Collines des Mamelles, the monument overlooking the Atlantic Ocean was designed by Senegalese architect Pierre Goudiaby. The colossal structure depicting the full-length statue of a woman, man, and a child held on the man's raised left arm emerging from a volcanic mountaintop was constructed by an overseas North Korean firm. The must-visit monument contains cultural exhibitions, multimedia and conference rooms, shops, a nearby theatre, and a floor at the very top that allows visitors a bird’s eye view of the surrounding city and ocean.
The African Renaissance Monument was unveiledin front of 19 African heads of state and other international dignitaries in April 2010, Senegal’s 50th Anniversary of Independence from France. Officials at the unveiling included the president of Malawi and the African Union Bingu wa Mutharika, the former African Union Commission chair Jean Ping 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. Those on hand from the United States included civil rights and humanitarian leader Rev. Jesse Jackson and various other US delegates.
The dignitaries, officials and delegates who attended seemed to very much be in favor of the monument. Former Nigerian president and African strongman Olusegun Obasanjo who cut a ribbon in the colours of the Senegalese flag, said the statue was 'a monument for black people all over the world. 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".
Even though the statue is a symbol of pride and rebirth for African and her Diaspora, the statue with a $28 million price tag has not been without controversy. There are some people who feel that the money would have been better spent helping the country’s poor. Some Muslims think that its portrayal is disrespectful of their culture, arguing that a statue depicting a human figure is idolatrous with the immodesty of the semi-nude male and female figures. On the other hand proponents claim that in the long-run, the monument will help to boost the economy as a tourist attraction that they believe will become as popular as the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty. Many feel that the monument will attract visitors from around the globe creating additional revenue for the country.
While the debate as to whether the magnificent work of art represents an inspiration or insult to the poor continues, there is little doubt that the African Renaissance Monument is a world-class structure showing the world that Africans are rebounding after six centuries of darkness and suppression. In addition, the monument should represent the beginning of healing and reconciliation for the descendants of both slaves and slave owners. A symbol of hope, the monument is deserving of praise and honor, if for nothing more that just for its grandeur, beauty and symbolism for Africa, her global Diaspora and the world community.