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Senegal Set to Inaugurate Towering Monument of African Renaissance

North Korean workers prepare the unveiling of the "African Renaissance Monument" in Dakar, Senegal, 02 Apr 2010
North Korean workers prepare the unveiling of the "African Renaissance Monument" in Dakar, Senegal, 02 Apr 2010

Senegal Saturday inaugurates a huge monument of an African man, woman, and child as part of ceremonies marking its 50th anniversary of independence. The statue has been criticized for both its cost and what some say is the un-Islamic portrayal of a scantily-clad woman.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade says he has dreamed of this statue for years.

An African emerging from a volcano, symbolizing the continent freeing itself from what Mr. Wade calls centuries of imprisonment in the depths of "ignorance, intolerance and racism, to retrieve its place on this land, which belongs to all races, in light, air and freedom."

The bronze monument - taller than the Statue of Liberty - now rises above the capital Dakar, a muscular African man raising a child toward the ocean in his left hand while supporting a frail African woman with his right arm.

The dedication of the Monument of African Renaissance is the highlight of Senegal's 50th anniversary celebrations, attended by more than two dozen African heads of state and a large contingent of American civil rights leaders, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

Foreign donors have raised concerns about the cost of the North-Korean cast statue, estimated to be more than $20 million. But because it is a private project, the precise costs of the monument have not been released.

President Wade will personally earn 35 percent of the statue's revenue because it was his idea. He says he will use the funds to build schools across Africa.


But it is not just the cost that has caused controversy for the president and his statue. The woman appears so weak she can barely support her own weight - arms, legs and hair all trailing behind her as she has supported in the man's firm grasp. That has led Senegalese feminists to criticize the statue as both sexist and extremely unrealistic on a continent where women do far more than their fair share of the work.

The woman in the statue is also draped in a piece of cloth that barely covers her breasts and completely exposes her thighs - a somewhat shocking display of skin in an overwhelmingly Muslim nation. Islamic leaders have not only criticized the way the woman is dressed but the fact that the statue appears to hold up human forms for worship in un-Islamic idolatry.

President Wade's political opponents are calling on foreign dignitaries not to associate themselves with what they call "a fraudulent operation designed to satisfy Abdoulaye Wade's fantasies" about Senegal.

The statue's organizing committee says it aims to join the great monuments of the world including the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, and Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.