Features April 16, 2010
Senegal Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Independence, Launching of Statue of the African Renaissance

Story by Sean Barlow

Photographs by Sean Barlow and Damaso Reyes

I was honored to be included in a delegation of 100 mainly African-American leaders in civil rights, the arts, scholarship, business, Africa-focused NGO’s and the media on a trip to Senegal to attend the celebration of the country’s 50th anniversary of independence and the public launching of the monumental statue of the African Renaissance. We flew by chartered plane from New York City on Thursday, April 1st, and returned that Sunday night. Our delegation included civil rights leaders Julian Bond and Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. (whom everyone in Senegal seemed to know by first name and want their picture taken with), the leadership of the NAACP, and many others. Jazz pianist, composer and legend Randy Weston and multi-platinum Senegalese-American R&B singer and rapper AKON, represented the performing arts. This visit was the brainchild of Senegal’s Djibril Diallo who wears many hats, including Senior Advisor to the Executive Director of UNAIDS and Chair of the U.S. Leadership Committee for the World Festival of Black Arts (FESMAN) to be held in Dakar in December 2010.

Reverend Jesse Jackson and Friends

Hostesses at Inauguration of Statue

22 African heads of state joined President Abdoulaye Wade for the festivities—hailing from Mali, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania, Cape Verde, Gabon, the Gambia, Morocco and others. Manu Dibango, Papa Wemba and Bembeya Jazz led by Sekou “Diamond Fingers” Diabate were all flown in to perform one song each at the State Dinner. Representing Senegal were the magnificent Griot singer Kine Lam and the sublime Thione Seck. Conspicuously absent were Youssou N’Dour and any U.S. delegation more official than us.

Thione Seck Performs at the State Dinner

Friday, April 2--Awadi Performs Présidents D’Afrique for University Students

Awadi's New CD, Presidents D'Afrique

Pan-Africanism and the legacy of African presidents’ were vividly on display from the moment we arrived in Dakar. I quickly found out that Senegal’s number one hip hop artist, Didier Awadi, was doing a concert launching his new project, Présidents D’Afrique. I rallied some adventurous delegates to drive out to Cheikh Anta Diop University and see the performance. I first met and interviewed Awadi in 1996 and knew immediately that he was a force to be reckoned with. But nothing I had seen before prepared me for the intensity of what went on this night. The band had just hit the outdoor stage before a rapturous crowd of some 5,000. Everyone seemed to be 19. The first song Awadi’s band performed was a tribute to Congo’s first president Patrice Lumumba. They played an understated version of Le Grand Kalle’s “Independence Cha Cha” that became the joyous soundtrack of Congo’s independence from Belgium in 1960. A huge video screen at the back of the stage showed clips of the ill-fated Patrice Lumumba. Then we heard more songs, each opened by clips of speeches by Kwame Kkrumah, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Thomas Sankara, Nelson Mandela, and others.

Didier Awadi

And then! The voice of Candidate Obama rang out loud and clear: “We know the battle ahead will be long but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.” Cut to Dr. Martin Luther King: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Cut to Awadi rapping in French. During all this I looked around and saw these kids loudly chanting “I have a dream!” And “Yes we can!” I turned to Ben Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP, and without words we shared delighted amazement at this moment of trans-national joy. Here were these French-speaking kids a continent and two generations away, connecting powerfully to America’s hero of the civil rights movement, and its first African American president. And coming full circle, our delegation was led by Jesse Jackson who as a young man was among Reverend King’s inner circle during the civil rights struggle.

Pierre Thiam and Sharon Daughtry at Awadi Concert in Senegal

Last on stage before I called it quits at 2:30 a.m. was the beloved 85 year old sabar drum master Doudou Ndiaye Rose and his troop of some two dozen 20-something drummers. As they mounted the stage, the kids in the audience went absolutely nuts! The applause and screaming surpassed what most rock megastar could ever hope for. I’m not exaggerating. The sabar is a traditional drum you play with a thin wood stick, getting that sharp THWACK sound, and one hand for the lower bass sound. I had first met Doudou in Dakar in 1987 and I swear that he did not look any older this night. Doudou, a slight figure, darted about the stage conducting his players and then attacking his drum. Awadi held the microphone to his drum and beamed broadly. What a beautiful statement of inter-generational connections here in Senegal. This was a hip hop crowd and yet they obviously also had a deep love and feel for their ancient music.

Awadi Performs

Saturday, April 3—Celebrating the Launch of the Statue of the African Renaissance

This was the big day. The day the dignitaries and the common folk gathered to celebrate the launch of the statue of the African Renaissance, while a group of some 500 protesters led by opposition political parties gathered miles away from the site.  The dominant visual image seen everywhere on streetlamps throughout Dakar was a powder blue poster of the African Renaissance statue—a father, mother and child pointing west—with a head shot of President Wade in the bottom right corner. The poster read “Inauguration du Monument de la Renaissance Africaine. Une Idée de Son Excellence Maitre Abdoulaye Wade, Président de la République Sénégal” (Inauguration of the Statue of the African Renaissance. An idea of his Excellency, Abdoulaye Wade, President of the Republic of Senegal.)

Official 50th Anniversary Poster

The Colloquium 

The first event of the day was a morning session at the luxurious Meridien Hotel outside of town. It was a colloquium organized by Professor Iba Der Thiam with presentations by him and other intellectuals. It featured a keynote address by President Wade. He opened by reminding everyone how interconnected Africa, Europe and the Americas have been historically, starting with the triangular trade of the hellish past when Africans were kidnapped and taken to the Americas to work as slaves growing cotton and other raw materials later shipped to Europe for manufacture and sold as trade goods in Africa. In a broad sweep, Wade traced the opening of cultural, economic and scientific horizons in Europe’s Renaissance. This was a fundamental change in the way of thinking, he said, but in the midst of this enlightenment, Europeans failed to acknowledge the humanity of black people.

Senegalese Family at Celebration

And now, President Wade said, after five centuries of the human tragedy of slavery, it is time for Africans to rise up and seize their destiny. He said it was time to create an African Renaissance—for African states to come together and find ways to work together to foster and support the economic, cultural, social and political well-being of the entire continent. He said that at the heart of this vision are the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals for progress in ending poverty and hunger, and achieving universal education and gender equality, also drastically reducing the impact of HIV/AIDS, ensuring environmental sustainability, and creating a global partnership for development—all by 2015.  Something that especially caught my attention was his vision to create the United States of Africa along the lines of the European Union by 2017, at which point the President of Senegal said he would be willing to step down and become the Governor of Senegal.  Now that is flying the pan-Africanist flag in a dramatic way.  And importantly, Wade proclaimed that Africa and the Diaspora are one, citing that after a long struggle, African Americans have accomplished much, culminating in the election of President Barack Hussein Obama.

Young Men at the Statue in Senegal

Launching the Statue of the African Renaissance

Close-Up of the Statue of the African Renaissance

The actual launch of the Statue of the African Renaissance took place late Saturday afternoon. As our bus climbed the hill at the base of the statue, past thousands of Senegalese waving signs and cheering, the immensity of this bronze statue became apparent. It stands taller than the Statue of Liberty. Rising out of a volcano is an athletic man baring his chest and holding a child on his bulging bicep. The child points west out to sea. Behind the man is a buxom woman with her dress blown back to her upper thigh. I think they positioned the figures this way so that the outline of the trio appears dramatically against the skyline when you are looking from up the coast or down the coast from Dakar. The statue was built by a team of North Koreans in what strikes many observers as a socialist realist style.

President Wade Arrives at Statue Inauguration

Once at the statue site, our group settled in a VIP section looking at the podium and a huge jumbo-tron of the live broadcast by Radio and Television Senegal (RTS). Behind that, the statue’s figures swept dramatically up to the sky, dominating the scene. To one side of us were seated the top brass of the Senegalese military and on the other the diplomatic corps. The steep steps from the plaza where we were seated up to the landing of the statue were totally filled with thousands of cheering people—one horizontal strip blue, the other yellow. As far as I could tell, our American team was the largest international delegation.

Sabar Drummers Perform

Waiting for the presidents to arrive, there was plenty of down time. For those inclined there were stacks of Wade’s signature 1989 book, Un Destin Pour l'Afrique, as well as a glossy booklet detailing all the progress—sector by sector, project by project—that had been accomplished since 2000, the year he was elected. And there was a nice souvenir copy of  the text of President Wade’s upcoming inauguration speech before he delivered it. I have never seen a more documented event. Right before the start of the ceremony, who should walk by but Manu Dibango dressed informally, here to perform at the state banquet that night.

Manu Dibango

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia Arrives

An official looking bus arrived and labored noisily up the steep hill from the plaza to the landing right under the statue. The jumbo-tron blew up the images of African presidents getting off the bus—President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, President Amadou Toumani Touré (A.T.T.) of Mali and others I did not recognize. President Wade led a tour of an exhibition on the ground floor. Then all the presidents walked to the edge of the staircase landing and waved to the tens of thousands in all directions. It was a powerful moment.

The presidents’ bus descended followed by the black stretch limousine of President Wade. Imagine the convoy of black vehicles and intense looking Secret Service guards that accompany President Obama and you get the picture for this scene. The presidents walked down the red carpet with President Wade coming last. A female griot singer shouted out his praises as a sabar group beat out sharp staccato rhythms.

What followed was a string of speeches from dignitaries including Malawi’s president Bingu wa Mutharika (President of the African Union), Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria, and representing the African Diaspora, Jesse Jackson.  Jackson opened by saying that he wished Dr. King could be there for this momentous occasion. He went on to praise the spirit of the African Renaissance and the ambitious aims of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals. He wound up by praising President Wade’s vision for a United States of Africa. Wade gave the final address which was a shortened version of his speech at the morning’s colloquium cited above.

The finale was singing the Hymn of the African Renaissance written by President Wade himself. A booklet with the lyrics in four languages was passed out and everyone sang:

Surging from the country
The cities and the towns
To the Call for the motherland
Here stands Africans!
Africans! Africans!
You all freedom fighters
Africans! Africans! Africans!
Forward! Forward! Forward!
From the sea to the countryside
Savannah and the forests
To the call of Mother Africa
Here come Africans
Africans! Africans!
You all freedom fighters
Africans! Africans! Africans!
Forward! Forward! Forward!
All young boys and girls
Workers and peasants
Let us all save Africa
Here come Africans

(L-R) Fatou and Randy Weston and Friends

It was a heady swirl of emotions. Everyone in our delegation seemed genuinely moved. I spoke with some of the delegates afterwards about their thoughts and feelings about the celebration of Senegal’s 50th anniversary and the launching of the Statue of the African Renaissance. I also asked them what their vision was for Senegal and Africa in the next 50 years:

Jesse Jackson: You know, I thought about the 50th anniversary. The ‘54 Supreme Court legal decision (Brown vs. Board of Education) came out in America led by the NAACP and the Legal Defense Fund; it redefined democratic rules around the world. Then Dr. King’s activism emerges in 1955 and Little Rock in 1957, Ghana’s independence in 1957. A new birth of freedom was born out of that 1954 decision, and then the activism that came out of that, so really it’s a monument for the 50 years of decolonization--from Nkrumah in Ghana, Senghor in Senegal, down to Mandela, these countries were decolonized as a matter of law, so that’s a big breakthrough.

Jesse Jackson on Senegal TV (RTS)

Second there was a sense of reconciliation with Africans in the Diaspora. A renewed sense of who Africans are in Brazil, and Latin America, and North America. The fact is, it was our efforts, running parallel with theirs, to help in the decolonizing movements. In the very particular sense in southern Africa, most specifically South Africa, we used our leverage to get our country to declare sanctions on South Africa. So there’s a growing sense that we are of mutual value to each other, and that they of course have a great celebration, heads of state were here, eight from around Africa. I wish our own government had been here but the statue erected here in Senegal will be a lasting monument. And in one sense, we [African Americans] have returned, 400 years later, but we have returned, and returned with power that we didn’t have when we left. We returned with more education, more business, more acumen, more Congressmen, more people in the United States government. We have returned.

S.B.: What is your hope for what Senegal and Africa will be like in 50 years?

J.J: There will be a United States of Africa. There will be a common currency just as there’s a Euro now. And once they get a common currency, everything will change. Right now no currency spends from South Africa to Europe, all European currency spends from Europe down to South Africa. So right now, you have the lack of common currency and many languages. But now the idea [of the African Renaissance] has been born, and we have a way of catching up with good ideas. A United States of Africa will promote trade and culture.

Dudley Thompson (Lawyer from Jamaica, at 93 one of the oldest living pan-Africanists. Participated in the 1945 Pan Africanist Congress, knew Marcus Garvey, close friend of Kwame Nkrumah): Well, I think it’s good for them to come together. It’s fortunate to have brought together a lot of people, many of whom are conscious, and deeply conscious in one direction, Senegal, and many who have seen a wider picture. I am one of those who has seen a wider picture. That statue to me is a lot of things, as I say, as I said tonight. America has got a Statue of Liberty, Brazil you’ve got this statue of Jesus, in Senegal you now have this statue of unity, unity of Africa, because that’s our aim. Our aim in WADU [World African Diaspora Union], the association in which I’m very actively engaged, is to restore the eminence of Africa. To come from underneath and by black empowerment in every way, to erect Africa, a united Africa with the Diaspora as a major player in global affairs. That is our aim.

Dudley Thompson at the Parade

S.B.: So you agree with the formulation that President Wade was talking about, a United States of Africa by 2017?

D.T.: Oh yes, I’m very happy they put a target to it. Whether we see it or not, it’s a positive step, and I think they can do it, oh yes, they can do it, they can do it, if you have enough presidents [participating]. You know, all my years, I’m old, I’m 93 and I hope, I only hope, that I have another 7 years. I want to see that 2017, I want to hold in my hand, before I close my eyes finally, a passport as a citizen of a united Africa, that is my hope, my dream.

Djibril Diallo: For me, coming from the U.N., this is an amazing experience, in the sense that we are trying very hard to get as many African countries as possible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. For us, culture is a very powerful means to reach Africans from the remotest villages. So for us the African Renaissance monument symbolizes the powerful use of culture as a means for development, as a means for promoting peace. That is why we feel that this being done is very important, and that we need to work very hard to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS which is really like a bushfire, destroying a lot of development gains in Africa. The good news is that Senegal is an island of hope because the infection rate in Senegal is one of the lowest in the world. So to be in Senegal with such an American delegation means that we can learn how Senegal managed to keep its infection rate at under 1%, and then try to help other African countries and other countries around the world to do likewise so that we promote prevention. We need to have information to change the behavior of people vis-à-vis AIDS, and then care for those who have been infected, and promote sustainable human development.

S.B.: What would you like to see 50 years from now?

D.D.: I would like to see a world free of hunger, a world where nobody is going to bed hungry every night, a world where all children, boys and girls, are educated, a world where the environment is fully protected, and a world where there is big partnership between all of us.

Senegalese American Recording Artist AKON with Djibril Diallo (R)

AKON (Who introduces himself as an entertainer, philanthropist and businessman): I have a lot of feelings of joy, man, you know, coming up here today it just showed me how far we’ve come as African people, as people of color, you know, as a people in general. And I think this is one of those situations that allows people to really come together and understand what the future needs to be. I’m lovin’ the way how the heads of state here in Africa all came together for the same purpose. Because back about 15 or 20 years ago this would have never happened. So this shows just how far we as a people have come for one common goal.

S.B. What do you wish for Senegal and Africa 50 years from now?

AKON: Man, 50 years from now you know, I’m expecting Africa to be along the lines of all these other nations around us, just as developed… and still hopefully in a democracy where the people continue to run the country. We still have areas where we have to work in, areas in Africa where they’re still warring over different things. But I think by 2060 we’ll probably have overcome and ironed out all our kinks to where we can actually operate freely as a nation.

Ben Jealous (President and CEO of the NAACP): We’re here in Senegal for the unveiling of the African Renaissance monument. It’s the eve of Easter, and there’s a lot of emotion here in the crowd, especially among the American delegation who came. We just returned from Gorée island, many of us visiting for the first time. We were hit both with the sense of deep sadness and loss. Just to stand there in the Door of No Return and look out at waters where millions of people were sent into slavery or to their death. And yet I felt a great sense of triumph and hope for black people on the continent and throughout the diaspora. And this monument really symbolizes that sense of hope. Just as Obama becoming president is a great symbol of hope here on the continent, so we hope that this century will bring forth great positive change, just like the last did for Africa.

Djibril Diallo Speaks with RTS on Goree Island

Ambassador Fatou Danielle Diagne (Senegal’s recently appointed ambassador to the U.S.): I feel lots of emotion, emotion to be part of this ceremony, emotion to be actor at this ceremony, emotion as ambassador, because I see people from America coming to share this moment, this great and memorable moment. I was so young when I heard about independence, I said to myself, we have a lot of work to replace this, to make things function, to have a state, to have institutions, to have things working for the well-being of the population. And today I’m standing here and I’m very proud to be Senegalese. To be African. And to be a woman.

S.B.: What about the role of musicians?

F.D.D.: The musicians, you know, they play a great role. The musicians are a strong vehicle for information for young people because many people listen to them. Many kids love them and I think they are very important. And culture is, for me, one of the pillars of development. You cannot have full development without culture.

Kora Player Cissoko and Didier Awadi

S.B.:  50 years from now, what would you like to see for Senegal and Africa?

F.D.D: I would like to see Senegal as an emerging country like big countries—Brazil and South Africa. We can do it. We just have to believe in it and work hard for it. Senegal doesn’t have many natural resources. We don’t have oil but we do have human resources and faith and I think these are very important things.

The State Dinner

Fashion Show at the State Dinner

The State Dinner that night was a festive occasion hosted by President Wade at the Meridian Hotel. Like many events in Africa, it started late and went late. Our delegates luckily sat at a table near the runway where chic fashion shows by Senegalese designers alternated with live music. The tall, gorgeous Senegalese models made me wonder if modeling agencies in New York, Paris and Milan were au courant with the talent here. We also wondered why the food service was so slow but, a-ha, we could not be served until the presidents arrived and they were served first. Protocol. The presidents arrived. I got a chance to shake the hand of one of my heroes, President Amadou Toumani Toure (A.T.T.) of Mali. I passed on greetings from his friend, Georges Collinet and gave him a copy of our recent Hip Deep program, “Mali: A History in Music.” He smiled broadly and graciously accepted it. President Wade again came last, beaming. He had changed out of his suit and put on a powder traditional blue robe with a white scarf.

Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade Arrives at State Dinner

There was an extraordinary parade of Afropop stars performing that night. Senegal’s Kine Lam sang loudly, gesturing dramatically in grand Griot style. Manu Dibango and his band, fresh off the plane from Paris, played a jaunty version of his megahit, “Soul Makossa.” Then Papa Wemba from Congo performed one of his hits backed by a mix of Manu’s band and several Senegalese musicians. One of my favorite Senegalese artists, Thione Seck, sang in a Griot styled group, not in his usual mbalax dance band style. But that beautiful voice was the same. Next came Sekou Diabate leading the 16 piece band from Conakry featuring three singers, a classy five piece horn section and others. Sekou played off to the side at first but when he came center stage for his guitar solo he blew everyone away with his technical virtuosity and warm sound. Bembeya Jazz had composed a special praise song for Senegal and for President Wade. It was great to see Sekou backstage after their performance. I had first met him at his home in Conakry in 1987 and asked the band that was on break to do one show at Club Bembeya so I could record it for Afropop. They graciously agreed. And what a multi-guitar wonderful evening it was! To this day, it’s one of my all time favorite live recordings we ever made.

Sunday, April 4—African Independence Day Parade Celebrating Senegal’s 50th

Marching Band at Independence Day Parade

It was on April 4, 1960 that Senegal gained its independence from France. And Sunday morning, April 4, 2010 was bright and clear—a perfect day for a parade. Our group was bused to the parade route, again past the throngs of men, women and children lining the street where we were whisked into a V.I.P. area. An elegant man from the Senegalese diplomatic corps stationed in Washington told me that the stars in Independence Day parades in Senegal, like for many countries around the world, are the military—marching bands and crisply dressed soldiers in perfectly spaced formations looking very serious with their Kalashnikovs or rifles outfitted with gleaming bayonets. I love brass bands so I was in brass band heaven—the conductor, the snare drums, the big bass drums, the clarinets, the trumpets, the saxes and in back of it all, pumping away, the tubas. The marching band music comes out of the colonial era and it can sound a bit stiff. I’m told that when the band is not doing official functions, they can swing. And what a legacy to have hundreds of musicians who can play wind instruments and read music let alone hundreds of brass instruments in good working order. There are a lot of countries in Africa or anywhere for that matter that would be happy to boast that.  The brass sound was interspersed with a few sabar percussion groups. The most prominent one was led by Doudou Ndiaye Rose looking resplendent in a bright yellow robe. My camera battery died but fortunately our delegation photographer, Damaso Reyes, was there to tell you the story of the parade in pictures.

Senegalese Marching Group

Every side of Senegal’s security establishment was musically represented—the police, the army, the red-hatted gendarmes (Presidential guard), sailors. The Air Force flew a half dozen planes low overhead, painting the colors of  the Senegalese  flag—red, green and yellow. Then tanks. Then fire department trucks. Then wave after wave of student contingents dressed in gold, blue, green, orange and pink uniforms from various cities around Senegal marching in perfect formation with the exact same measured swing of their arms. I slipped out of the security perimeter to find something to drink (I could have made a handsome profit selling Coke in the VIP section) and wound up hanging at the corner with the common folk, enjoying soaking up the scene as people strolled by in family groups or posses of talkative teenagers.

The Colors of Senegal on Display

In my 25 years of music research in Africa, starting in 1985, I’m not used to being part of a group (except the ones I organize). Instead I’m used to following my ears, my instincts and on the ground tips. So at times it was hard for me to stay with the program on this trip, but I was part of a delegation. And it was a dense, well organized program traveling with very stimulating fellow delegates so I respected the group parameters. And I still was able to slip out afterhours like that first night at the university for the Awadi concert.

Sax Player in Parade Marching Band

Reflection on 50 Years, the Controversy over Statue and Inspiration 

Stepping back a moment, you have to give Senegal a lot of credit for its first 50 years. It has a functioning democracy with free elections and successful transfers of power. There has never been a coup. It has a proud tradition of a lively free press. The various ethnic groups and religions get along. So it is a model of peace and stability. Senegal produces many well educated people and like almost everywhere in Africa—and the U.S. too for that matter—but there are not enough jobs. Thousands of Senegalese men every year feel forced to make the perilous and expensive voyage in small boats to the Canary Islands, a jumping off point for hoped for jobs in Europe—not unlike Mexicans paying big money to be snuck over the U.S. border in hopes of finding menial jobs that Americans do not want to do.

Youssou N'Dour


Baaba Maal

On the bright side, there is a growing financial industry sector in Senegal boosted in part by wealthy families from the Ivory Coast, Guinea and elsewhere that have fled their unstable countries and brought their talents and resources to Senegal. That in turn has prompted a building boom. The country’s leadership has also been very successful in attracting aid money from the EU and France as well as significant financial support from Arab countries such as Kuwait, Qatar, Saudia Arabia, Dubai and Oman. So Senegal’s stability pays handsome dividends. And paying valuable PR dividends that money can’t buy, Senegal boasts some of the continent’s most talented and certainly the most internationally celebrated musical artists. Grammy Award winning Youssou N’Dour and Baaba Maal and the class act of the veteran Orchestra Baobab (with Awadi’s summer 2010 North American tour in the wings) are in the forefront of promoting a positive, dynamic, exciting face of modern urban Senegal and Africa as a whole.

Statue of the African Renaissance

Getting back to the Statue of the African Renaissance and the free press in Senegal, the statue has stirred a lot of loud controversy from the very start of the project in 2002. When you research the story, almost every article has the words “controversy” or “controversial” in the headline. The articles typically cite four reasons for people’s opposition. The common criticisms are that 1) its 27-million-dollar cost could have been better spent on social services for many people still living in poverty in a country suffering a “crise economique” (economic crisis) with high inflation and 25% unemployment. 2) the scantily clad woman in the statue violates the conservative sensibility in this 95% Muslim country (One prominent imam in Senegal went so far as to declare a fatwa against the statue, saying all statues are “idolatrous.”) 3) aesthetically, it is seen as unattractive by many and not African looking enough. 4) President Wade says the statue is in part his intellectual property and therefore that 35% of the entrance fees to the statue will go to his foundation.

The statue is certainly not alone among grandiose monuments and gestures that generated controversy at their unveiling.  Will the controversy endure, or will it be swallowed by the idealism of Wade’s vision?  Will the statue become a proud symbol to future generations of Senegalese, Africans and pan-Africanists?  For those answers, we await the judgment of history. But when we visited the statue Sunday at twilight, climbing the steep steps to the landing, we were among hundreds of Senegalese who had flocked there to see the statue up close for themselves and touch it and take pictures of it with their families. I asked one charming 8 year old girl what she thought of the statue. She smiled and said “C’est tres joli” (“It’s very nice”).

Jesse Jackson and Group at Base of Statue

You can tell from the interviews with delegate members above, the ideal of African Renaissance will be the lasting memory of this extraordinary moment as well as a motivation to renew our work on behalf of Africa.

American Delegation, Including the Author (R), at JFK Airport

Interview transcriptions by Gabriel Holl.

For our favorite videos of Senegalese artists on YouTube, head to our recent feature.

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