The good, the bad and the ugly statues of famous people in Africa

Statue of Ghanaian football star Michael Essien

Statues and sculptures have been erected all over the world to either honor individuals or make an artistic statement to the public.

In every country, you can find statues and sculptures in public spaces and in private spots. Some are nationalized and protected by the laws of the state.

Almost every state in the U.S. has a statue and one of the country’s most iconic statues is the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island in New York Harbor in New York City. The 93 meters copper statue is a gift from the people of France and is estimated to be worth over $35 million.

In Africa, there are iconic monuments including the biggest, the African Renaissance Monument outside Dakar, Senegal. It is a 49-meter tall bronze statue located on top of one of the twin hills known as Collines des Mamelles.

This is a beautiful monument like many others across the continent. The same cannot be said for others who have faced criticism for having a bizarre artwork, losing relevance in the present-day dispensation, and the unpopularity of those represented.

Here are the good, the bad, and the ugly statues in Africa that generated interest in the last decade.

Gaddafi Statue in Tripoli, Libya

In 2011, Libyan rebels took control of Col Muammar Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli after an uprising that ended his reign. Their target in the compound was his statue which was broken off and its head kicked along the ground by fighters.

Statues of Ghanaian footballers Michael Essien and Asamoah Gyan

Former Chelsea footballer, Michael Essien’s latest statue erected in his home country may pass out as the worst if reactions on social media are anything to go by.

Critics say the statue has zero resemblance to the midfielder as his head is not in proportion to his body and the upper part of his body seems quite heavier than his lower part.

It was the same reaction for a statue in honor of footballer Asamoah Gyan in tribute to his services for his country.

Surprisingly, the sculptor who designed Essien’s statue is the one behind the statue of Gyan. Gyan’s statue also has its head and shoulders appearing to be too big compared to the rest of his body.

The Ghanaian sculptor behind both statues, Dominic Ebo Bismarck, remains unfazed amidst the uproar.

“Artwork must be criticized and I’m ever ready to accept criticisms. I am ok with it as most are coming from a layman’s point of view,” Bismarck said in an interview with

“Sculpture and portraiture are about the likeness of the person, especially the face but it doesn’t have to look exactly the same. Once people are able to notice the person in the art, then you have done a good job,” he explained.

Statue of Fela Anikulapo Kuti in Lagos

A statue was erected last year in honor of music legend and Afrobeat pioneer Fela Anikulapo Kuti who died on August 2, 1997, at the age of 58.

The Liberation Statue was unveiled at the popular Allen Roundabout in Ikeja, Lagos on Fela’s 79th birthday as part of activities marking the 20th anniversary of his demise.

It was sculpted by Nigerian artist Abolore Sobayo who used fiberglass to design the golden headless effigy of the legend with its handless arms raised into the sky.

People criticized the statue for not having a head. The artist said it was headless to respect the wishes of the musician.

Statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the University of Ghana campus in Accra

A controversial statue of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled last year at the University of Ghana campus in Accra by Pranab Mukherjee, the president of India, as a symbol of close ties between the two countries.

Months later, a group of professors petitioned for the removal of the statue of Gandhi, whom they claim was racist. They wanted the university to instead, erect statues of African heroes and heroines.

Ghana’s foreign ministry assured that the statue will be removed and relocated.

Statue of late musician Mohamed Abdel Wahab in Egypt

The statue of late musician Mohamed Abdel Wahab in Egypt was described as deformed for its gold and brown painting by the students of the Giza Technical Secondary School for Girls who built it.

Residents of the district expressed anger at the statue which critics said looked like a Nutella Hosni Mubarak.

British colonialist statue of Cecil Rhodes in South Africa

South Africa’s University of Cape Town protested for months against a statue of 19th Century British colonialist Cecil Rhodes. The protesters said it had “great symbolic power” which glorified someone “who exploited black labour and stole land from indigenous people”.

It was removed after several months of protests last year. Other monuments of colonial-era leaders have also been the target of protests in South Africa.

Statue of French colonial hero General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque in Cameroon

The statue of French colonial hero General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque erected in Douala since the colonial era was BEHEADED on two occasions by activist Andre Blaise Essama.

He launched his campaign in 2015 to behead all the colonial statues in Douala and he started with that of General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque.

He flaunted his conquest by sharing on his blog and on social media professional photographs of himself posing with the statue’s head.

Essama was arrested and sentenced by a Douala-Bonanjo court to three months in prison and fined for “destruction of public property” after he pulled down the French colonial “statue of the unknown soldier” in the city center days after the first “conquest”.

A few months after his release from prison in December 2016, the activist erected a statue of John Ngu Foncha – a pivotal figure in the unification of the British and French Cameroons – at a busy intersection in the city.

He was hailed by his growing supporters for erecting the statue which did not see the light of day. Unidentified angry-looking policemen pulled the statue down in a few hours and dragged it away.

This article by Ismail Akwei was first published on

Published by Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei is an international journalist, digital media and communications professional, editor, writer, arts, culture and tourism advocate, human rights activist, pan-Africanist, tech enthusiast and history buff. He has worked with multinational media companies across Africa and has over a decade’s experience in journalism.

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