Ruskin artist wins Fourth Plinth commission

Antelope by Professor Samson Kambalu

Dr Samson Kambalu, Associate Professor of Fine Art at Ruskin School of Art, has won a commission for a place on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square with his powerful sculpture, Antelope, depicting the pan-Africanist Malawian preacher, John Chilembwe.

In a ceremony in London, where the winners were announced, Malawian-born Professor 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. This commission fills me with excitement and joy.'

The sculpture is a recreation of a 1914 photograph depicting the Malawian Baptist preacher outside his new church with John Chorley, a European missionary.

Dr Kambalu, a fellow of Magdalen College, won the commission following a public vote organised by the Mayor of London’s office. More than 17,000 people voted for their favourite among six original artworks.

In the sculpture, Dr Kambalu depicts Rev. Chilembwe as larger than life and wearing a hat, which was strictly forbidden in front of white people. The year after the photograph was taken, the preacher led a rebellion against colonial rule and died. He is still very much remembered in Malawi with a national day and was formerly depicted on bank notes. It was to be nearly 50 years before Nyasaland became independent as Malawi in 1964.

Dr Kambalu also holds a Knowledge Exchange Fellowship with The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) and recently discuss this artwork in an online event which is available to watch here.

A maquette of Antelope is part of an exhibition by Dr Kambalu currently at Modern Art Oxford. The exhibition, 'New Liberia', runs until 5 September and can be viewed here.