Architect of UN Slavery Memorial Explains ‘The Ark of Return’

This year’s commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade will have particular significance at United Nations Headquarters in New York, where six years of work to establish a permanent memorial to honor the victims pays off with the unveiling on 25 March 2015.

Designed by Rodney Leon, an American architect of Haitian descent who was chosen in 2013 as the winner of an international competition attracting a total of 310 entries from 83 countries, ‘The Ark of Return’ honours the memories of the estimated 15 million men, women and children who were victims of the largest forced migration in history.

“It makes me feel extremely proud that I can play a role and a part in the commemoration of such an important and historic day,” Mr. Leon says in an interview.

“I feel really proud that we have a physical marker and a place of remembrance for this annual celebration to take place moving forward.”

Having also been chosen to design the African Burial Ground National Monument in lower Manhattan, erected on a spot where 15,000 people of African origin were buried over a period of around 100 years from the 1690s until 1794, Mr. Leon is familiar with art relating to slavery and the African experience in the Americas.

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