On the empty Fourth Plinth of London’s Trafalgar Square, Samson Kambalu’s post-colonial artwork “Antelope” was revealed on Wednesday.
John Chilembwe, a Baptist preacher and educator who led an insurrection against British colonial control in Nyasaland, now Malawi, in 1915, is shown in the bronze resin sculpture.
On John Chilembwe Day, which commemorates his death at the hands of colonial police and signals the start of the movement for Malawian independence, he is remembered in Malawi.
The sculpture is the most recent in a series of exhibitions of modern art on the bare plinth that has been running since 1998 and is supervised by the mayor of London.
A huge ship in a bottle and a swirl of fake whipped cream with a cherry, fly, and drone on top were among the earlier installations.
In Kambalu’s sculpture, Chilembwe is accompanied by the European missionary John Chorley, a friend and supporter.
It was intended, according to the artist, to raise awareness of Britain’s colonial history in southern Africa.
While Chilembwe is “larger than life,” Chorley is life-size, bringing attention to the pastor’s story and Britain’s colonial heritage.
Kambalu stated that he hoped his work would shine a light on this “hidden history” by drawing attention to what he claimed was Britain’s unwillingness to acknowledge its colonial legacy in southern Africa, such as Malawi.
The fact that both characters in the sculpture are wearing hats may seem unremarkable at first, but they serve to remind us of the colonial ban on African men donning hats in front of white people.
(with inputs from agencies)