Connecting to Africa


By Stanley Talbert ’16, M.Phil. ’19
It is impossible to escape the African Renaissance Monument in Dakar, Senegal. The 160-foot bronze statue commands the attention of every person within its proximity. The journey toward the monument requires visitors to climb countless stairs. The monument depicts an African woman with locks owing in the wind as her breast and Herculean thighs extend freely, without the white supremacist, sexist gaze of slavocracy. A muscular African man with legs that blend into the chiseled boulder base embraces the woman with a gentle hand on her back. A toddler sitting on the left shoulder of the man is pointing.
Stanley Talbert, a current Ph.D. student in systematic theology, stands in Gorée Island’s “Door of No Return.”
A small, displaced image of Africa lies next to the monument to account for the ways that colonialism has fractured the African continent. The child’s outstretched hand does not point at the displaced Africa. For many, the child represents freedom, hope, liberation, and unity—pointing toward possibilities beyond notions of Western imperialism.
When I asked Dr. Aliou C. Niang, associate professor of New Testament at Union, what it meant for Union to focus on Africa, he said my query took him by surprise because Westerners rarely ask this crucial question. Niang, who grew up in Senegal, says, “Africa has been grossly misunderstood by Westerners who have ideological slants motivated by empire. Africa has been undermined by the slave trade, colonization, and scramble of Africa.” In short, Niang makes a similar point to Achille Mbembe, who

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