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Nigerian artwork unveiled in St Paul’s Cathedral next to colonial monument

17 February 2022

Still Standing, by Victor Ehikhamenor, is part of an exhibition, ‘50 Monuments in 50 Voices’

Graham Lacdao/Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral

The artist Victor Ehikhamenor with his mixed-media piece, Still Standing, after it was installed in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral on Thursday

The artist Victor Ehikhamenor with his mixed-media piece, Still Standing, after it was installed in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedra...

A NEW artwork by a Nigerian-born artist has been unveiled in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral in response to a plaque commemorating the admiral who led the British sacking of the Kingdom of Benin, 125 years ago.

The mixed-media piece, Still Standing, by Victor Ehikhamenor, is part of an ongoing exhibition, “50 Monuments in 50 Voices”, which opened on 1 December, in partnership with York University. The weekly series invites contemporary artists, poets, musicians, theologians, performers, and academics to offer a new perspective on some of the more than 200 historic monuments in the cathedral dating from 1796 to 1916.


Mr Ehikhamenor is known for combining painting, sculpture, photography, and other materials in works that use symbolism from both traditional Edo religion and Catholicism, reflecting on the confluence of African and Western cultures.

His latest piece incorporates rosary beads and Benin bronze hip ornament masks to depict Oba (King) Ovonramwen of Benin. It is on display until 14 May, next to a memorial brass plaque in the Nelson Chamber commemorating Admiral Sir Harry Holdsworth Rawson, who led British forces during a military campaign in Benin in 1897. Many hundreds of artefacts were taken during the expedition, including the Benin Bronzes, most of which now reside in the British Museum.

Mr Ehikhamenor said on Thursday that Still Standing “also memorialises the citizens and unknown gallant Benin soldiers who lost their lives in 1897, as well as the vibrant continuity of the kingdom till this day. I hope that we, the descendants of innumerable uncomfortable thorny pasts, will begin to have meaningful and balanced conversations through projects such as ‘50 Monuments in 50 Voices’.”

The co-curator of the exhibition, Professor Dan Hicks, who commissioned the work, hoped that it would remind viewers “of the enduring legacies and losses of colonial war, and of the ability of art to help us reconcile the past and the present”.

The Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Revd Dr David Ison, said: “The ‘50 Monuments in 50 Voices’ project invites responses to these memorials and the people they commemorate, from an array of different perspectives. As part of that project, the installation of Victor Ehikhamenor’s artwork contributes to the ongoing task of understanding the complexities of these monuments in 21st-century Britain.”

A national review of church memorials and monuments that are deemed offensive in relation to slavery, colonialism, or racism is under way (News, 19 June 2020). This began in the wake of Black Lives Matters protests in 2020 (News, 5 June 2020).

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