Role of Statues in the Artistic Commemoration of African Political Leaders: Analysis of 20 Selected National Statues in African Countries

  • Kamau Wango, PhD Department of Fine Art and Design, Kenyatta University
Keywords: Statues, Physical Likeness, Posture, Commemoration, Legacy, Public Spaces
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Artistic commemoration of leaders and other iconic personalities has been in existence for centuries. Statues in particular have been used as a fitting avenue for the commemoration of political leaders and other luminaries in many fields. The premise upon which statues are made is that the subjects featured initiated and attained, in their lifetimes, concrete achievements that significantly impacted upon the lives of their fellow human beings. Other criteria for commemoration include proven integrity, dedication and selflessness in the service of the country and citizens. Statues as an integral part of public art have often generated substantial controversy on various fronts in many countries. Some of these gravitate around issues such as disputed likeness, queries about the fundamental achievements cited of the subject, at times open protests on the actions, character and integrity of the subject as well as the location of the statues. Other areas of contention include the implication of the presence of statues upon the political psyche of the country and their long-time impact on history, the youth and posterity. This paper examines the extent to which African countries have embraced this mode of artistic rendition to commemorate African political leaders in a way that is commensurate to their achievements. It is outside the scope of this paper to delve into the intricate web of back-and-forth arguments about the ‘concreteness’ of the legacies of the featured leaders who are mainly founding political figures of the respective countries. The paper, however, analyses the artistic essence of the selected statues in terms of their visual impact and whether they are indeed useful in articulating the legacies of the subjects and further, whether they ultimately bear ‘enduring visual value’ that spurs conversation and insight into these legacies. Statues must, at the very least, spur debate and conversation into the legacy of the featured subject. It becomes a form of constant interrogation as history itself takes its course; controversy is not necessarily a negative occurrence since it forms part of this discourse. The concept of immortalization, which is what initiators of statues often hope for is much harder to achieve and difficult to define. The paper examines 20 statues of African political leaders in different African Countries.


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11 March, 2021
How to Cite
Wango, K. (2021). Role of Statues in the Artistic Commemoration of African Political Leaders: Analysis of 20 Selected National Statues in African Countries. East African Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, 3(1), 40-77.