Professor Samson Kambalu’s statue ‘Antelope’ has been chosen to be displayed in Trafalgar Square on the Fourth Plinth.
The bronze statue represents the pan-Africanist John Chilembwe (1871-1915), a key figure in the resistance to colonialism in Nyasaland (now Malawi). Beside him, on a smaller scale, stands the European missionary John Chorley.
Chilembwe is depicted wearing a hat: a potent symbol given, during colonial rule as Malawians were barred from wearing headwear when passing, or in the presence of, a European; as well as stopping and standing to one side. This courtesy was seldom acknowledged or returned by a European, hence the justified outrage.
Kambalu told the BBC that he was filled with excitement after his work was selected to be placed at the square.
“For me, the Fourth Plinth and my proposals were always going to be a litmus test for how much I belong to British society as an African and as a cosmopolitan, and so this fills me with joy and excitement.”
He added: “When I proposed, this was before Black Lives Matter and George Floyd had been taken into the mainstream and I thought I was just going to be like the underdog, because I had made up my mind that I was going to propose something meaningful to me as an African.
“But we have to start putting detail to the black experience, we have to start putting detail to the African experience, to the post-colonial experience.”
Kambalu’s statue will be unveiled in 2022 and in 2024 it will be replaced by Teresa Margolles’ “850 Improntas”, which features casts of the faces of 850 transgender people from around the world.
“I’d like to congratulate Samson Kambalu and Teresa Margolles as the next artists to have their work displayed,” said London mayor Sadiq Khan in a statement.
“They will be shining a spotlight on important issues that our society continues to face, and I know they will spark debate and interest at home and abroad.”