Saturday, April 03, 2010

Senegalese Monument to Open


Jesse Jackson, Akon mark African Renaissance
Unveiling of Senegal’s controversial new monument draws a crowd
By Diadie Ba
updated 3:33 a.m. MT, Sat., April 3, 2010

DAKAR - Senegal's monument to the "African Renaissance" will be formally unveiled before foreign dignitaries and celebrities on Saturday.

Slightly bigger than New York's Statue of Liberty, the giant group of man, woman and infant is perched on a hill overlooking the Senegalese capital Dakar.

President Abdoulaye Wade has invited about 30 heads of state to the inauguration, a day before the 50th anniversary of Senegal's independence. U.S.-Senegalese rapper Akon and U.S. civil rights activist Jesse Jackson will also attend.

Opponents of the statue — which is billed as representing Africa's rise from "centuries of ignorance, intolerance and racism" — are due to protest in central Dakar on Saturday despite a ban on all marches by town authorities.

In the latest blow to Wade's project, a leading imam on Friday issued a fatwa condemning it.

The $28-million statue has been criticized as a waste of money in a country with crumbling infrastructure and welfare provision, while Muslims have branded it "un-Islamic" for presenting the human form as an object of worship.

"We have issued a fatwa urging Senegal's imams this Friday to read the holy Koran in the mosques simply to ask Allah to preserve us from the punishment this monument of shame risks bringing on Senegal," imam Massamba Diop told followers at his central Dakar mosque, using the term for a religious ruling.

Soviet-style realism
Pro-Wade senator Ahmed Bachir Kounta, a Muslim scholar, said the statue was a cultural project and rejected the charge of idolatry.

"Every architectural work sparks controversies — look at the Eiffel Tower in Paris," he said of the 19th-century structure labeled by early critics as an expensive eyesore.

Wade, who at 83 has confirmed he will seek re-election in two years' time, has said he was personally involved in designing the statue. Critics have said it is more Soviet-style realism than traditional African art form.

The monument has been built by North Korean laborers, another source of discontent in a country where formal employment is scarce.

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