Winning design announced for the Permanent Memorial in Honour of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

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Judges, Rodney Leon and the “Ark of Return,” the winning design for the Permanent Memorial in Honour of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Photo: UN/DPI

The Ark of Return, the winning design of an international competition for the Permanent Memorial in Honour of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade was unveiled by the Secretary-General at a ceremony at UN Headquarters attended by dignitaries and senior UN officials on Monday afternoon.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in unveiling the winning design, said "The memorial will serve as a reminder of the bravery of those slaves, abolitionists and unsung heroes who managed to rise up against an oppressive system, fight for their freedom and end the practice."

The designer of the Ark of Return is Rodney Leon, an architect based in Manhattan and an American of Haitian descent. When presenting his project, he explained: "The Ark of Return is a symbolic spiritual space and object where one can interact and pass through for acknowledgment, contemplation, meditation, reflection, healing, education and transformation."

” I am very happy, but am even more touched, humbled and very proud. It's a very large honour but it's also a large responsibility and I feel very humbled by the fact that the judges and the selection committee had honoured our design as the one that was part of so many wonderful designs and so I'd like to congratulate and thank a lot of my fellow contestants because I had also been inspired by what they had done and we feel even more inspired now to do honour to the process, do honours to the memories of the people that passed and we look forward to moving forward to the next phase.”

The winning design was chosen by a committee of five international judges who met at UN Headquarters in August 2013. The judges came to their decision by consensus after presentations by each of the seven finalists.

Two other commendations were given by the Panel of Judges. Nicholas Grun and Pierre Laurent are the second place winners for the Mémorial d'Ebène. Two designs were named as third place winners: Middle Passage by Sofia Castelo, and The Wounded Earth by Carlo Gandolfi, Paola Passeri, Alessandra Ripa, and Monica Sachetti.

For over 400 years, more than 15 million men, women and children were the victims of the tragic transatlantic slave trade, one of the darkest chapters in human history. The Permanent Memorial will honour and remember those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal slavery system, and also increase awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice today.  This is Donn Bobb reporting.

Duration: 2’18″

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