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Historic statue in London to remember enslaved Africans

SUCCESS: Members of the Memorial 2007 team

THE UK is set to honour the victims of the Transatlantic Slave Trade after Westminster Council granted planning permission for a national memorial.

The proposed Enslaved Africans and their Descendants Memorial is set to be located in the Rose Garden in London’s Hyde Park after a 14-year campaign by the charity Memorial 2007. According to a Westminster Council Planning Application document seen by The Voice, the council’s former Public Art Advisory Panel said that:

“The subject matter of the memorial is one that is considered worthy of representation in a high-profile location, and
the artist is well-respected and has carried out other public commissions, including in Westminster.

“The site is evidently capable of accommodating a memorial and the Royal Parks support the proposal.”

Now the team behind the campaign need to raise £1 million to pay for the memorial, which they hope to do before the end of the United Nation's (UN) International Decade of African Descent in 2024.

Oku Ekpenyon MBE, one of the key members of Memorial 2007, told The Voice that the idea for a memorial to remember enslaved Africans was born in 2002. While working as a teacher she and other colleagues spoke to pupils of African heritage who asked ‘Where is our history?’ following educational visits to museums and other places of interest.

She said:

“The Eurocentric nature of the History National Curriculum failed and continues to fail to cover this aspect thereby not reflecting ‘their’ history despite its importance to Britain.”

In their bid to remember the victims of the slave trade, Memorial 2007 faced several challenges — from securing the
location of the memorial, to getting planning permission. However, they remained persistent in their fight to have the voices of the enslaved heard.

“It took us three visits to the Westminster Public Arts Advisory Panel to finally get it accepted, but it was certainly worth all that work” said Ekpenyon.

She continued:

“This groundbreaking project will fully realise the aspirations of present and future generations by publicly acknowledging the enforced labour of enslaved Africans who created the wealth that helped to lay the foundations of the Industrial Revolution, the legacy of economic prosperity from which Britain continues to benefit to this day and put the ‘Great’ into Great Britain.”

The memorial sculpture and the garden that will surround it has been designed by leading sculptor Les Johnson FRBS.
It depicts the courage and dignity of all those who were enslaved and their struggle for freedom and pays tribute to efforts to abolish it. The concept for the design of the garden is based on the ‘Slave Trade Triangle’.

Barriers

It is a triangular space sub-divided into three zones representing Europe, Africa and America, with the sculpture located in the central space, which represents the Atlantic Ocean. Rings of granite bands radiate out from the sculpture, linking the three continents.

Ekpenyon said:

“Now that we have planning permission, there are no barriers to hold the project back. We hope that this will broaden the scope and hopefully people will be able to donate and support the project.”

To contribute to the fund, please visit www.memorial2007.org.uk or make cheques payable to: Memorial 2007
Please send cheques to: Memorial 2007, West End House, 37 Chapel Street, London NW1 5DA.

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