By Durrell Namasani
The statue of Malawi freedom icon John Chilembwe will be erected at London famous Trafalgal square it has been announced. Works depicting colonial defiance and the faces of trans people have been announced as the next pieces to occupy Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth. Professor Samson Kambalu and Teresa Margolles are the two artists behind the pieces, which will go on display in 2022 and 2024 respectively.
Of the six pieces shortlisted, Professor Kambalu’s impactful statue of John Chilembwe has won by popular vote and will be displayed in 2022. This is wonderful news on the eve of Malawi Independence Day, 6th July.
Prof Kambalu’s 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.
John Chilembwe is depicted wearing a hat: a potent symbol given, during colonial rule, Malawians were expected to remove their 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.
Trafalgar has numerous statues and memorials celebrating British colonial power.