Lead Story West Edition

Local sculptor plans 313-foot high piece in Africa

LOS ANGELES — For years, artist Nijel Binns has had his mind on a major project that could link the United States with Africa.

Binns recently returned from a trip to Cameroon in Africa with an offer from the prime minister of that country to provide room for his 313-foot-high sculpture of the Mother of Humanity and 200 acres for an accompanying theme park.

“The ‘Mother of Humanity’ sculpture I’m planning is an icon to be seen and appreciated by scores of people from across the continent of Africa,” Binns said. “It will not be for one African country alone. The artwork will be a permanent fixture in Africa for decades to come. It is their gift.”

Binns says that even though Cameroon has invited him to display his work there, he is still accepting invites from other African governments.

In development is the artist’s 313-foot tall sculpture, one of the largest sculptures in the world.

“The greatest part of the sculpture is that its outline actually looks like the shape of the continent of Africa,” Binns said. “The sculpture is in fact a building which is interactive for visitors, and there may even be a way for visitors to go to the very top.”

Binns described his sculpting project vision as being comparable to the Statue of Liberty. His idea is to give a permanent legacy back to Africa — a sculpture of a beautiful woman, twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

When Binns and his team of eight art experts entered Cameroon last month, they were greeted with red carpet treatment and a receiving ceremony that was full of cheer and praises from both the government and people of Cameroon.

Binns’ arrival came as Cameroon was celebrating the 50th anniversary of National Youth Day on Feb.11.

He was in the right place at the right time to be introduced to the people of Cameroon.

He said they enjoyed hospitality, warmth and an abundance of food upon their arrival.

The sculptor reflected on the fact that seven of the eight members of his team had not been to Africa before. Some of the Cameroonian people Binns met were surprised to see an African person that was culturally different from what they saw in the media.

“It was truly amazing. I can say our lives were changed immensely because of this dream-come-true trip to Africa,” Binns said.

Initially, Binns was contacted by a not-for-profit organization, Acts of Random Kindness, also known as ARK Jammers, Inc.  They helped Binns by introducing his artwork to Cameroon government officials.

For Binns, an important aspect of the trip was the participation of Cameroon’s Prime Minister Philemon Yang, who was involved in the process of bringing Binns and his team into the country.

On day one, Yang came out to personally meet and greet Binns and his team. Yang immediately extended to Binns an invitation to have the Mother of Humanity monument permanently exhibited in Cameroon. Yang also offered Binns 200 acres of free land for the sculpture and an accompanying theme park.

The Mother of Humanity statue that Binn wants to place in Africa will be similar, but much larger than a sculpture he created in the 1990s that is located at the Watts Labor Community Action Committee facility.

That sculpture, which is 16 feet tall, was inspired by Binns’ mother as well as the aftermath of the 1992 riots.

Binns was born in England and moved to Los Angeles with his African father and Jamaican-born mother in 1980. He pointed out that as he was growing up, his mother often inspired him to become someone special.

“My mom and I always shared a very close knit relationship,” he said. “She loved to tell me there is nothing I couldn’t do.

“For me, my mother represented real loving-kindness. So with my mother’s love in mind and a great respect for the role of all women, I conceived, ‘The Mother of Harmony’ project.

“It would be a series of sculptures, all women, exhibited in different prominent locations. I wanted women across the world to be proud. I wanted something representative of the true beauty of all women in our multi-cultural environment,” Binns said.

Binns skill as a sculptor was first acknowledged when he was commissioned to sculpt pop icon Michael Jackson in 1990 for the top-selling artist of the decade tribute.

Also that year, Binns received a commission from Motown Records to create the gold-plated Maasai Princess bronze sculpture for singer Stevie Wonder.

While Binns considers the offer to place his Mother of Humanity sculpture in Cameroon, he also is entertaining offers for the project from Tanzania and Ethiopia.

The new “Mother of Humanity” sculpture will be digitally scanned first, creating a digital file. Then the artist will make sections to be manufactured. After that process, sections completed will be shipped to the appropriate location for further assembly.

In order for the sculpture and theme park idea to work successfully, Binns said 200 acres of land is needed. He also hopes the project will be funded by the people of the United States.

“Similar to the way the French gifted America with the Statue of Liberty, I want my monument to serve as a gift from Americans to the African people,” Binns said.