John Chilembwe statue to get erected in London

Malawi Heat

 Malawi’s freedom fighter John Chilembwe will have his statue erected at one of the historical places in the world, the Trafalgar Square in London.

The Antelope, as the effigy by Professor Samson Kambalu is known, has been unveiled to occupy the fourth plinth of the square in 2022.

In an interview, an elated Kambalu confirmed that the artwork received more votes, thereby securing a display at the park.

“Chilembwe is going up there,” he said from his UK base.

Comprising two figures, Chilembwe and John Chorley, the bronze statue is a stark reminder to people, especially Malawians, of the country’s colonial history.

“It is based on the last known photograph taken of John Chilembwe. Chilembwe is the towering ghostly figure while his friend, the British missionary, is the life size figure,” said Kambalu in an earlier interview.

Ironically, both are wearing hats, which is in defiance of the colonial law that forbade Africans from doing that in the presence of white people.

The artefact also shows the Malawian carrying a book while Chorley holds reading glasses.

“The statue, like the photograph, is performative. The two figures tango for recognition on the plinth, due to their disproportionate sizes, like a film vignette or some esoteric dance,” he stated.

Another contemporary art, 850 Improntas (850 imprints) depicting the faces of trans people by Teresa Margolles from Mexico will go on display in 2024.

The winning pieces were chosen by the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, chaired by Ekow Eshun, following a public say which saw selected artists receiving almost 17 500 votes.

“This year was an incredibly strong shortlist from six incredibly exciting contemporary artists. I would like to congratulate Samson Kambalu and Teresa Margolles on winning the commissions,” said Eshun, according to the BBC.

“I want to thank the public for all of their comments; we received more votes than ever before. I am thrilled at the outcome and very much looking forward to seeing the new works on the plinth.”

The historical site in central London has been home to a rolling commission of artworks since 1998.

Other artists that competed for the plinth are Nicole Eisenman with the Jewellery Tree, and Goshka Macuga who prodced his artefact called GO NO GO.

Other works included Ibrahim Mahama’s On Hunger and Farming in the Skies of the Past 1957-1966 and Paloma Varga Weisz’s Bumpman for Trafalgar Square. (By Yvonnie Sundu, The Nation)



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