Accepted Paper:

Pan-African utopia: le monument de la renaissance africaine  

Author:

Ferdinand de Jong (University of East Anglia)

Paper short abstract:

At the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of Senegal’s independence, President Abdoulaye Wade inaugurated the Monument de la Renaissance Africaine. This paper examines this monument as the President's Pan-African Utopia, received by the population as a representation of postcolonial dystopia.

Paper long abstract:

At the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of Senegal's independence, President Abdoulaye Wade inaugurated the Monument de la Renaissance Africaine. Higher than the Statue of Liberty and hugely expensive, the monument has been subject to various controversies. While the monument can indeed easily be denounced as yet another white elephant, we propose to understand it as an expression of Pan-African Utopia. Composed of an eclectic range of references to European revolutionary and African nationalist iconography, the monument nonetheless expresses everything but an 'African' aesthetic. This aesthetic choice was only of the controversies it has generated so far, in which its formal attributes have become subject to a nation-wide debate on its moral (im)propriety. Short from concluding that the monument is indeed another fetish of the state, we acknowledge that the monument should be seen as an articulation of contested subjectivities. Whilst the President's monument expresses a belated Utopia, it has come to embody a postcolonial Dystopia for the majority of Senegal's population.

Panel P083
Revolution 3.0: iconographies of utopia in Africa and its diaspora