Since its conception, the African Renaissance Monument erected in Ouakam, on one of Dakar’s iconic Mamelles, has continued to fuel controversy. The latest, the one that has pitted the heirs of the Senegalese sculptor Ousmane Sow against the famous Guide du Routard, published by Hachette, for a few days.
In its most recent edition on Senegal, it is written thus: “On the second hill rises the monument dedicated to the African renaissance. Inaugurated in 2010, it has caused a lot of ink and saliva to flow. Wanted by Abdoulaye Wade and executed by the great sculptor Ousmane Sow (who later fell out with Wade), this large 52-meter high sculpture, depicting an African couple with their child, all three pointing to the sky, aroused criticism from all sides: the opposition and the street, denouncing the fortunes engulfed in the project (the equivalent of twenty million euros, even if it was North Korean workers who did the heavy work in exchange for land in Dakar!), a group of imams criticizing the bare appearance of the woman represented and the “non-Islamic” character of the whole, not to mention that Wade received part of the proceeds from the visits… It’s as if Mitterrand had received royalties on the Great Pyramid or Pompidou on the Beaubourg center… The style recalls the era of “socialist realism”…”
Lightness and amateurism
Nothing very surprising in this text for those accustomed to the prose of Guides du Routard, between lightness and amateurism. Except that attributing the Renaissance Monument to Ousmane Sow is to commit a more than damaging error. Admittedly, the sculptor had made the model of the initial project, but faced with the demands and ideas of President Wade, he had never really rendered it.
I apologize in advance to the Senegalese for what they are going to see
In 2009, he told us this, without bitterness, but with firmness: “Originally, it was my project. I wanted to create a lively place – and its counterpart in the United States. I had spoken to Abdoulaye Wade about it, when he was not yet president, one day when I was eating at his house. Later he told me that he wanted to make a statue bigger than that of Liberty, in New York, without even wondering if the ground could support it. Today, I apologize in advance to the Senegalese for what they are going to see. The North Koreans are learning the hard way that making a sculpture with a landscape is not like making a portrait of Kim Il-Sung! »
A model locked in a closet
Ousmane Sow’s former partner, Béatrice Soulé, remembers the story very well. “The model designed by Ousmane had been shown to Viviane Wade and we were waiting for news from the president, she says. One day, the phone rings: it’s Wade who wants a photo of the project. I send it to him. The next day, we are going to eat at Almadies and the waiter congratulates Ousmane on the laying of the first stone. In the newspaper, it is the photo of the model of the current monument, apparently drawn on the computer by the Senegalese architect Pierre Goudiaby Atepa! When we got home, Ousmane locked his model in a cupboard and he became silent on the subject. He didn’t want to hear about it anymore. »
When the Senegalese Ousmane Sow celebrated the Indian resistance
Contrary to what Le Routard asserts, the sculptor’s distrust of the president later crystallized around his politics, and not about this personal affair.
Anyway, the error of the French Guide made the heirs of the visual artist jump, who wrote to the publishers to express their dissatisfaction. “This information, in addition to being totally erroneous, is harmful to Ousmane Sow, it being noted that the related editorial refers to the said monument as “criticism from all sides”, “sunken fortunes”, of a supposedly “non-Islamic” character, of “diversion of royalties”, argue David Sow and Ndeye Marina Sow. To this is added a parenthesis on the supposedly degraded state of the aforementioned relations with the presidency of Senegal, negative and unfounded comments which obviously have nothing to do in a tourist guide such as yours. »
Reassembled, they pose some requirements. ” Without delay ; intervene so that the name of Ousmane Sow is deleted, and if applicable the comments denounced above, wherever this name or these comments appear, in all the communication media under your control dedicated to or linked to your guide (especially on the net). As soon as possible ; insert a corrigendum in all the copies in stock of the current edition of the guide in question; announce the future deletion of the mentions denounced here, during future edition(s). Term; delete on the occasion of the next edition, in all future copies of the said guide, any reference to the name and work of Mr. Ousmane Sow, in the cited page of the cited article. »
Ni regrets ni excuses…
The answer, which came from Hachette Livre under the pen of Sidonie Chollet, director of Hachette Tourisme, hardly bothered with feelings: “The Routard team has taken note of your observations, and as you have already been told, there will be no reference to Mr. Ousmane Sow in the next edition of the Guide du Routard Senegal. We wish you good reception of this letter and remain at your disposal for any additional information you may require. Without judging the fact that it would be a pity, for a guide like Le Routard, not to mention the Ousmane Sow house in its next editions, this July 5 letter is undoubtedly missing the essentials: a few words of apologies!
Faced with this lack of good manners, and without wanting to embark on legal proceedings, David and Marina Sow have decided to make their point of view known via social networks. Their online petition, “Le Routard: Stop misinformation, amateurism and defamation” had, in the afternoon of August 10, collected more than 320 signatures and intends to “respect the dignity of the Senegalese people , respecting its cultural symbols”.
Contacted and questioned as to its intentions, Le Guide du Routard has not yet responded to our messages. As for those who would like to see the model of the monument which the sculptor had in mind and which would have had the title The free manit is exhibited in the Maison Ousmane Sow, with a number of ses works.