Arts & Culture
Antelope: A tribute to Pan-Africanist and anticolonial rebel John Chilembwe
28 September 2022
Fourth Plinth | Free
Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5NJ
The unveiling of the new Fourth Plinth sculpture ‘Antelope’ by Samson Kambula depicting Malawian Preacher John Chilembwe – who defied colonial rule by wearing a hat in front of white people, will be unveiled 28th September at 09.30am.
Malawi-born Samson Kambalu‘s sculpture Antelope, depicts a 1914 photograph of Baptist preacher John Chilembwe and European missionary John Chorley.
Mr Kambalu said the original picture of his artwork “looks ordinary” at a first glance.
“But when you research the photograph, you find that actually there’s subversion there, because at that time in 1914 it was forbidden for Africans to wear hats before white people,” he said.
“For me, the Fourth Plinth and my proposals were always going to be a litmus test for how much I belong to British society as an African and as a cosmopolitan, and so this fills me with joy and excitement.”
He added: “When I proposed, this was before Black Lives Matter and George Floyd had been taken into the mainstream and I thought I was just going to be like the underdog, because I had made up my mind that I was going to propose something meaningful to me as an African.
“But we have to start putting detail to the Black experience, we have to start putting detail to the African experience, to the post-colonial experience.”
Mr Kambalu and Ms Margolles’s artworks were chosen after nearly 17,500 people voted for their favourite.
The artworks were selected by the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group alongside entries from artists Paloma Varga Weisz, Ibrahim Mahama, Goshka Macuga and Nicole Eisenmans.
Ms Margolles’s winning sculpture 850 Improntas will see “life masks” arranged around the plinth in the form of a tzompantli, a skull rack from Mesoamerican civilisations.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan congratulated the artist and added they would be “shining a spotlight on important issues that our society continues to face, and I know they will spark debate and interest at home and abroad.”
The “fourth plinth”, which marks one corner of Trafalgar Square, is one of the most coveted art commissions in the world, and is often the source of controversy. Each work stays in place for around two years before being replaced.
Header image: Samson Kambalu’s sculpture Antelope. Photo credit: James O’ Jenkins