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The Fourth Plinth

The Fourth Plinth

The Fourth Plinth is one of the world’s most famous public art commissions.
It plays an important role in bringing contemporary art and debate to millions for free and casting a new light on London’s most historic square. An established icon for London, it brings out the art critic in everyone.

Since launching in 1998, the Fourth Plinth has become known around the world for its diverse commissions and commentary on complex and contemporary issues.

A sculpture of a preacher who was killed in an anticolonialist uprising in what is now Malawi will be unveiled in September on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Antelope by Samson Kambalu is the 14th contemporary artwork to be commissioned for public display in the historic central London square.

The sculpture restages a 1914 photograph of John Chilembwe, a Baptist preacher and pan-Africanist, and John Chorley, a European missionary, taken at the opening of Chilembwe’s new church in Nyasaland, now Malawi.

Chilembwe is wearing a hat in defiance of a colonial rule forbidding Africans from wearing hats in front of white people. The following year, he led an uprising against colonial rule. Chilembwe was killed and his church, which had taken years to build, was destroyed by the colonial police.

In Kambalu’s sculpture, Chilembwe is almost twice the size of Chorley, as a way of elevating his story and highlighting the distortions in conventional narratives of the British empire.

Kambalu said: “Antelope on the fourth plinth was ever going to be a litmus test for how much I belong to British society as an African and a cosmopolitan.” The commission had filled him with “excitement and joy”, he added.

He had proposed the sculpture for the fourth plinth before the Black Lives Matter movement took off in the UK, he told the BBC last month.