The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is actively seeking designs for their new project that will be a permanent memorial to honor the victims of slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.’ Artists, designers, sculptors and other visual arts professionals are invited to submit proposals. This call for participation offers the selected artist a unique opportunity to design a memorial that will insert the slave trade tragedy into the collective memory of humanity and raise awareness regarding the contributions of the victims of slavery.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the launch of the ‘Permanent Memorial to Honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade’ as a very important step. “The memorial will acknowledge the crimes and atrocities perpetrated over the course of four centuries, when millions of Africans were violently removed from their homelands, ruthlessly abused and robbed of their dignity. The legacy lives on today in the families and countries that were affected. The memorial will also remind the world of the bravery of those slaves, abolitionists and unsung heroes who managed to rise up against an oppressive system and end the practice,” he said.
‘It will also serve as a call to action against contemporary manifestations of slavery. The abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in the nineteenth century did not eradicate the practice globally. Instead, it took on other forms, which persist to this day: serfdom, debt bondage and forced and bonded labour; trafficking in women and children, domestic slavery and forced prostitution, including of children; sexual slavery, forced marriage and the sale of wives; child labour and child servitude, among others. This reality obliges the international community to bring perpetrators to justice and to continue pursuing with vigour its efforts to uphold human rights and human dignity,” said the UN Secretary-General.
The memorial will be located in a prestigious public space on the grounds of the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York along the East River bank. The winning design will be inherently egalitarian, expressing the cross-cultural and global impact of the slave trade, while honoring those who have died and those who have shared their struggle. The memorial will be an architecturally designed sculpture embodying each affected region of the transatlantic slave trade – Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and the Americas erected on the grounds of the UN.
The theme chosen for the competition is ‘Acknowledging the Tragedy; Considering the Legacy; Lest We Forget.’ As an outstanding artistic complement to the landscape of the UN Headquarters, the memorial must be designed to reflect the competition’s theme. The permanent memorial will serve to deepen, both visually and spiritually, the visitor’s experience of the iconic site and also represent the symbolism of the United Nations . Proposals must be submitted by December 19, 2011. The winner’s prize for the completion of the design is 50,000 USD.
The creation of such a memorial is the initiative of representatives of Jamaica, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the African Group, a consulting, research and advisory firm. Heading the effort s to erect the memorial is Raymond Wolfe, Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United Nations, who serves as chairman of the Permanent Memorial Committee. Howard Dobson, former chief of New York’s Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture, is chairman of the Permanent Memorial Advisory Board, and US entrepreneur Russell Simmons and singer Melba Moore are ambassadors for this project. UN officials estimate that about US$4.5 million is needed for the memorial to be completed by next year.
The open international design competition will be administered through UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris. Through a collaborative effort, the Permanent Memorial Committee and Advisory Board will develop its guidelines and establish a panel of internationally acclaimed design professionals, artists, and other relevant stakeholders to be jurors for this competition. The project will be released at the end of the competition in spring 2012. For more information about the memorial or to enter this competition, visit www.unslaverymemorial.org.