The first time I saw this image, it was just a thumbnail on a webpage, and I could not make out the face:
“Just another clichéd statue of a Chinese leader,” I thought, as I moved on to other news.
Imagine my shock when I discovered that it was a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. for a national memorial in Washington DC.
As it turns out, the statue is indeed an example of Chinese communist iconography. Malcolm Moore, the Telegraph’s Shanghai correspondent, reports,
The 30ft-tall statue, which forms the centrepiece of a $120 million (£73 million), four-acre memorial to Dr King, opened to the public on Monday on the National Mall in Washington. It is the only memorial on the Mall that does not honour a president or fallen soldiers.
Standing in the shadow of the Washington Monument, the statue shows Dr King emerging from a mountain of Chinese granite with his arms crossed and is called The Stone of Hope.
However, there has been controversy over the choice of Lei Yixin, a 57-year-old master sculptor from Changsha in Hunan province, to carry out the work. Critics have openly asked why a black, or at least an American, artist was not chosen and even remarked that Dr King appears slightly Asian in Mr Lei’s rendering.
Mr Lei, who has in the past carved two statues of Mao Tse-tung, one of which stands in the former garden of Mao Anqing, the Chinese leader’s son, carried out almost all of the work in Changsha.
More than 150 granite blocks, weighing some 1,600 tons, were then shipped from Xiamen to the port of Baltimore, and reassembled by a team of 100 workmen, including ten Chinese stone masons brought over specifically for the project.
Lei Yixin is from Hunan, the same province as Chairman Mao. He was a do-nothing clerk at a publishing house when a local public official spotted some of his doodles and encouraged him to become a sculptor. While he has produced a wide a variety of work, his specialty is sculptures of Chairman Mao and iconography for the Chinese Communist Party, and he has been so successful in that realm that he has been given a permanent stipend by the state.
Here are some of his other sculptures:
The last sculpture above is even more indicative of Lei Yixin’s politics than the statues of Chairman Mao–it is a statue of the patron saint of Chinese communism, Lei Feng. Lei Feng is the propaganda symbol of the Chinese Communist party.
Defenders of the selection of Lei Yixin to make this ill-begotten communist version of Martin Luther King, Jr. claim that his detractors are racists. There could be nothing further from the truth. Indeed, it should be a matter of simple common sense that a monument in Washington DC should be made of materials from America by American workmen, and not by someone on the payroll of the Chinese government who specializes in creating propaganda to buttress the Chinese Communist Party’s rule.
Are the people behind this travesty saying that there was not enough good marble in the US to complete this project, and that the quality of sculptors in the US was so poor that they had to get a Chinese sculptor who specializes in communist kitsch to do the job?
The sculpture should be disassembled and sent back to China where it belongs.
- MLK Made in China (oddlittlerants.wordpress.com)
- MLK Memorial was Made in China (fellowshipofminds.wordpress.com)
- MLK Memorial Still Brews in Controversy for Building with Chinese Workers (themilwaukeedrum.com)