Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth gets statue dedicated to Malawian anti-colonialist

Artist Samson Kambalu unveils artwork of African missionary in Trafalgar Square

The work 'Antelope' by Samson Kambalu is unveiled on the Fourth Plinth depicting baptist preacher John Chilembwe and missionary John Chorley. EPA.
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The creator of a new sculpture on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square represents “standing up for justice and equality”.

Artist Samson Kambalu created the bronze reisin artwork, called Antelope, which depicts Malawian baptist preacher John Chilembwe, who fought against colonial rule.

The sculpture is the latest in a programme overseen by the mayor of London that began in 1998 to showcase contemporary art on the empty plinth.

At Chilembwe's side in Kambalu's sculpture is his friend and supporter, the European missionary John Chorley.

The Malawi-born artist said it was designed to shed light on Britain's colonial legacy in southern Africa.

"People present colonialism as a kind of conqueror and victim (story)," Kambalu said at the unveiling.

"But actually, it's more complex than that. There are heroes on both sides. There is dignity on both sides."

Chorley is life-sized, while Chilembwe is "larger than life", elevating the pastor's story and Britain's colonial past into the public eye.

"There's a lot to be addressed," said Kambalu.

Artist Samson Kambalu speaks to the media after the unveiling of the latest artwork to be displayed on the Fourth Plinth. Getty.

Kambalu said that by highlighting what he said was Britain's failure to address its colonial legacy in southern Africa, such as Malawi, he hoped his work would shed light on this "hidden history".

Both figures in the sculpture wear hats, a banal feature at a first glance but evoking the colonial prohibition which barred African men from wearing hats in front of a white person.

Antelope is the 14th commission in the Fourth Plinth programme.

Last week, there were calls in the House of Commons for a statue of the late monarch to be erected on the Fourth Plinth instead in honour of her reign.

Previous Fourth Plinth commissions include Heather Phillipson’s sculpture The End, which depicted a whirl of cream topped with a drone and a fly; Marc Quinn’s sculpture of pregnant Alison Lapper and Yinka Shonibare’s scaled-down replica of HMS Victory, contained in a glass bottle.

Updated: September 29, 2022, 6:21 AM