Memorial to Slavery’s Victims Unveiled

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (in red tie), designer Rodney Leon (far left) and others at the unveiling of "The Ark of Return" (Photo by Tequila Minsky via Caribbean Life)

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (in red tie), designer Rodney Leon (far left) and others at the unveiling of “The Ark of Return.” (Photo by Tequila Minsky via Caribbean Life)

“The Ark of Return,” a memorial to the victims of slavery, was unveiled at the United Nations Visitors Plaza on March 25, in a ceremony attended by U.N. officials and foreign dignitaries, Tequila Minsky reports in Caribbean Life.

The striking marble monument, with triangular panels designed to echo the triangular nature of the slave trade, was designed by Haitian-American architect and designer Rodney Leon, who won an international competition of 310 participants from 83 countries.

“Consider the legacy,” one of the many elements in the Ark of Return memorial at U.N. Plaza. (Photo by Tequila Minsky via Caribbean Life)

“Consider the legacy,” one of the many elements in the Ark of Return memorial at the U.N. Visitors Plaza. (Photo by Tequila Minsky via Caribbean Life)

“These three triangular patterns describe the slave routes from specific locations in West Africa and throughout Africa to South America, to the Caribbean and Central America, and to North America,” [Leon] says.

The memorial sits at the far end of the plaza with the East River as its backdrop. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke at the unveiling.

The memorial at the U.N. aims to remind visitors of the complete history of slavery, urging them to acknowledge the tragedy and its legacy, and to heighten awareness of the current dangers of racism, prejudice and slavery’s lingering consequences that continue to impact the descendants of slavery’s victims today.

Rodney Leon (Photo by Tequila Minsky via Caribbean Life)

Rodney Leon (Photo by Tequila Minsky via Caribbean Life)

Some 15 million people were forced to make the crossing in slave ships during more than four centuries of the trade…. “a stain on human history,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in his remarks during the ceremony. The memorial is also for the “huge numbers” who didn’t survive the journey.

Go to Caribbean Life to learn why Leon, who also designed the African Burial Ground Memorial in lower Manhattan, dubbed this work “The Ark of Return,” and how he hopes to inspire a “counter-narrative” to the story of Africans leaving their homes centuries ago on slave ships.

 

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