Friday, November 25, 2011

African Renaissance Monument

During Parker and Addisons' fall school break we decided to venture out of Plateau to another section of Dakar and work our way to see a monument that has stirred up much controversy here. It's called the African Renaissance Monument and it is located in the northwest part of the Dakar peninsula on top of one of two sets of mountains. The two mountains together are named the Mamelles which was derived from the french word meaning breast. Atop one - the monument, atop the other - the lighthouse

I'm of the sense that it's "the controversy" around the monument that drives people to see it - certainly we wanted to know.  And after we got there it was clear to us - after about 5 minutes "the mystery" was over. Here is a write up from the BBC in April 2010 when it was inaugurated which helps explain the controversy.


Senegal has inaugurated a massive $27m (£18m) monument - higher than the Statue of Liberty - that has drawn huge criticism over its cost and symbolism.
The 49m (160ft) Monument of African Renaissance has been unveiled in Dakar as the highlight of the nation's 50th anniversary of independence.Some scholars have labelled its scantily clad figures un-Islamic, while others said it was a waste of money.Supporters say it represents Africa's rise from "intolerance and racism".In the hours leading up to the inauguration, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Dakar to voice their opposition.The Soviet-style bronze statue, built by North Korean workers, is the idea of President Abdoulaye Wade.It depicts three figures - a man holding a woman behind him and a child aloft, pointing out to sea. 

'Monument of shame'
Mr Wade also attracted fierce criticism for saying he should take 35% of the revenue generated by the monument because it was his idea.Protesters carried a mock statue through the streets of Dakar. Riot police patrolled the streets during the protest rally, which the authorities initially banned, before relenting.The demonstration was called to protest against "all the failures of Wade's regime, the least of which is this horrible statue".Deputy opposition leader Ndeye Fatou Toure said the statue was an "economic monster and a financial scandal in the context of the current [economic] crisis," AFP news agency reported.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by 19 African heads of state, North Korean officials, and a delegation of 100 African-Americans including the Rev Jesse Jackson.
Guests were given a tour of the monument ahead of the ceremony. The vast staircase leading up to it was lined with hundreds of people wearing yellow and blue, the colours of the ruling Senegalese Democratic Party. "Africa has seized this monument," presidential spokesman Mamadou Bamba Ndiaye told AFP. 

"It is rare to have one country hosting more than a dozen heads of state for this kind of event. That testifies to their support."The statue has divided opinion in a country where half the population lives below the poverty line.Some Muslim scholars have called the monument idolatrous.Some Muslim scholars have called the monument idolatrous.

On the eve of the celebrations, the Reuters news agency quoted a leading imam, Massamba Diop, as telling worshippers at a mosque in the capital: "We have issued a fatwa urging Senegal's imams this Friday to read the holy Koran in the mosques simply to ask Allah to preserve us from the punishment this monument of shame risks bringing on Senegal."
The statue has been mired in controversy from the outset. President Wade - who at 83 has announced he will seek re-election in 2012 - had to apologise to Senegal's Christian minority after comparing the monument to Jesus Christ.n Its architect also said he had received complaints about the woman's naked legs.However, its supporters stood by the project. 

Senator Ahmed Bachir Kounta told Reuters: "Every architectural work sparks controversies - look at the Eiffel Tower in Paris."


Our timing was such that without realizing it we showed up on a Monday sometime between 1 - 2:30 - we only remember because the gift shop and elevator access (for a fee and I'll get to that in a minute) were closed. This  really had no negative affect on our visit there. It seemed that the only people who were there though - were these guys - the ones whose job it was to clean the bathrooms who wanted to take a photo with us.

So what did we think about it - well, it is colossal, and somewhere I read it is supposed to represent Africa’s rise from “ignorance, intolerance and racism” - but I can't say that I understand that interpretation in relation to the design of this monument. What I saw was a giant man with chiseled abs, holding a child (his son?) on his shoulder and ensuring the woman by his side (his wife?) did not get away extending out of 1/3 of the monument that was more like a rock formation (volcano?).

I wasn't moved one way or the other with regards to the monument - yet could relate to the disgruntlement of many - who felt it was a costly endeavor - given all the rampant poverty, economic problems and unemployment that surrounds the outlying areas of the statue. Seems there could have been a more fruitful use of the funds. Although whose to say that the funds if given over to some type of NGO source would have proven itself with better results. It's all conjecture.

We did receive a spectacular view of the sprawling Dakar peninsula. Along with what could either have been  abandoned construction or work in progress - It was hard to tell.

Now here is what really got our goat - the price to get into the monument -

6,500 CFA for a non-resident adult = $13.00 - guessing it includes a brief tour guide, the exhibits and a ride to the top - but the way things work here - nothing surprises us that without anything being stated for sure - anything goes.

3,500 CFA for non-resident kids = $7.00.  

1,000 CFA - simple - adult resident which I think is just a ride to the top = $2 
3,000 CFA - complete - adult resident  = $6 includes we think the  brief tour guide and some exhibits plus the ride to the top.

It's not to say we could not have afforded it, or that we haven't paid prices like that to visit other cultural or notable structures on other trips we have taken. It was the thought that even the reference that 35% of the funds collected might have ended up in President Abdoulaye Wade's domain  - irked us. 

It was evident to us that the only sure way our funds would get put to good use in the community was to spend the $40 eating at a restaurant in our neighborhood!

Next stop -  the lighthouse.

View of the Lighthouse from the Renaissance Monument

But first - a soda break at the nearest (which was not so near and in the heat)  magasin to minimize the whining....

Ahhh - Whining suppressed!! - Now off we go.

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