An anti-colonialist sculpture by artist Samson Kambalu on display in London's Trafalgar Square

An anti-colonialist sculpture by artist Samson Kambalu on display in London’s Trafalgar Square

A sculpture showing Baptist pastor John Chilembwe, who led a failed 1915 uprising against British colonial rule in Malawi, was unveiled in London’s Trafalgar Square on Wednesday, where it will sit until 2024.

In this work by Malawi-born, Oxford-based artist Samson Kambalu, John Chilembwe wears a hat, which was forbidden for Africans at the time against whites, and is depicted larger than life, dominating a missionary.

The sculpture, made from a photo taken in 1914, reveals “the hidden stories of unrepresented peoples in the history of the British Empire in Africa and beyond”, details the town hall of London in a press release.

The sculpture, titled Antelopeis exhibited on the fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square, which has temporarily housed contemporary works of art since 1998. It succeeds that of the British artist Heather Phillipson, entitled The Endwhich featured a giant cherry towering over a mound of whipped cream, a fly, and a drone.

On Wednesday, the artist Samson Kambalu posed for the media for a long time, smiling, with a cigar, in front of his work. “I am happy to have been able to deliver the message of equality and justice of John Chilembwe. It is a message of love and abnegation. (…) It is a universal message”, he told AFP. John Chilembwe is “a figure of modernity in Malawi. He was the first Malawian to try to solve the problems of colonial injustices. It was quite radical, even for Africans”, explained the artist.

“By revealing how a simple hat has become a symbol of the fight for equality, Samson Kambalu’s bronze sculpture will send an important message to Londoners and the millions of people who visit Trafalgar Square each year”said Justine Simons, deputy mayor in charge of culture.

Since the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, several voices, including those of MPs, have been raised to demand that a statue be dedicated to the sovereign on the fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square. “This decision is up to the king and the royal family”, reacted Justine Simons. “What is important is to find the right place for her (Elizabeth II, editor’s note).

The fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square will not be free for four years, she warned. Another work has already been commissioned, to follow on fromAntelope.

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