Burkina Faso unveils ‘corrected’ Thomas Sankara statue

Africa
A composite image showing the first statue as unveiled in March 2019, and the second statue as unveiled in May 2020. Image copyright AFP/BBC
Image caption The original (L) was unveiled last March; a replacement (R) appeared on Sunday

After people complained the first version did not resemble the revolutionary African icon, Burkina Faso has unveiled a new statue of Thomas Sankara more than a year later.

“It’s hard to say whether one can 100% capture Thomas Sankara, but what we have [now] represents him and that’s what matters most,” Foreign Affairs Minister Alpha Barry told French broadcaster RFI on Sunday.

“The government has given strong backing to this project to get a memorial worthy of its name.”

A close look at the newly unveiled version shows that the eyes and other features have been reworked and refined.

People take photos of the second bronze statue of Burkina Faso's former President Thomas Sankara on17 May 2020. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Sunday’s unveiling drew the crowds…
A close shot of the second bronze statue of Burkina Faso's former President Thomas Sankara. Image copyright AFP
Image caption This new bronze statue is by the same sculptor – Jean Luc Bambara – who made the original…
People pose for photos with the second bronze statue of Burkina Faso's former President Thomas Sankara on 17 May 2020. Image copyright AFP
Image caption The new version has the same triumphant posture as the first

Sculptor Jean Luc Bambara went back to the drawing board last year after criticism that the statue’s facial features did not match Sankara’s.

“What didn’t work the first time around was the [short] deadline,” he said, “then there were the weather conditions.”

“Lost-wax bronze casting [uses] a material that melts in warm weather. At 45C it melted, to the point where some sections lost their shape at the casting stage.”

A soldier stands under the bronze statue of Burkina Faso's former President Thomas Sankara on 2 March 2019. Image copyright AFP
Image caption There was more pomp at the first unveiling a year ago

Thomas Sankara – an icon for many young Africans in the 1980s – remains to some a heroic “African Che Guevara”.

He came to power in 1983 and adopted radical left-wing policies and sought to reduce government corruption.

Sankara also shed the country’s colonial name of Upper Volta and renamed it Burkina Faso, which means “the land of upright men”.

Today’s statue stands on the site in Ouagadougou where he was assassinated on 15 October 1987 by a group of soldiers in mysterious circumstances.

He was just 37.

Sankara’s relatives want his former deputy, Blaise Compaoré, to face trial for his murder. He denies any involvement.

Mr Compaoré, now exiled in Ivory Coast, succeeded Sanakara and remained in power for 27 years until he was ousted in 2014 following a wave of popular protests.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has also promised to declassify secret French files about the circumstances of Sankara’s death, though this has not yet happened in the three years since he made the pledge.

Thomas Sankara speaks to reporters in Paris, France, in 1983. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Thomas Sankara is regarded by many as a pan-African hero

All images courtesy of AFP and Getty Images.

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