Artist Samson Kambalu has said his new sculpture for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square represents “standing up for justice and equality”.
The work by Malawi-born artist, Antelope, depicts a 1914 photograph of European missionary John Chorley and Malawian Baptist preacher John Chilembwe, who fought against colonial rule.
Speaking at the unveiling of the sculpture in central London on Wednesday, Kambalu told the PA news agency he was “delighted” to be able to convey Chilembwe’s message of fighting for a better world. .
The missionary died in 1915 during a revolt against colonial injustices, one of which was a law banning Africans from wearing hats in front of whites.
Kambalu explains: “Before the uprising, he took a picture with his friend, they were simply standing next to each other wearing hats, and he distributed this photo to his followers as a political stance to say ‘We’re equal to white people so I can wear a hat in front of a white man’.
“Of course, he was killed a few months later, but his message lives on.”
The artist admits that when he saw the photo in the Oxford library, he was not sure at first why it meant so but felt there was a message behind it, and when he was approached to sent the proposal to Plinth Wednesday, he said he knew it would be on-topic right away.
Reflecting on what it means for his sculpture to be placed in central London, he told PA: “Chilembwe stands there, this sculpture not only represents justice and equality, but it represents his own African heritage.”
Kambalu added that the title Antelope refers to the masked culture of the Chewa people, who reside in Malawi, and is a symbol of generosity.
“So he’s not only proposing equality and injustice, but really proposing a radical economy right in the middle of the Empire,” he added.
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The artist said he feels the metaphor of who should wear the hat today remains a pertinent question.
“So we have movements like Black Lives Matter, the George Floyd movement,” he said.
“His (Chilembwe) protest action is still relevant to this day and I’m glad I can continue it.
“I can carry his message of contributing to the fight for a better world that is still going on today.”
The sculpture was expected to be unveiled at the beginning of the month, but it was delayed following the Queen’s death.
Last week, there were calls in the House of Commons for a statue of the late monarch to be erected in the Quaternary instead to honor her reign.
The previous fourth Plinth rose included Heather Phillipson’s sculpture The End, which depicts a whirlwind of ice cream topping a drone and a fly; Marc Quinn’s sculpture of pregnant Alison Lapper and Yinka Shonibare’s miniature replica of HMS Victory, housed in a glass bottle.
Sir Antony Gormley also created One & Other, in which everyone – including a naked man – took turns spending an hour on a pole.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/fourth-plinth-artist-say-his-sculpture-represents-standing-up-for-justice-42024458.html The fourth Plinth artist says his sculpture represents standing up for justice