Thanks to one of our intrepid readers, we were able to solve the mystery of the statue in front of 5th on the Park condos. The statue of three rotund woman recently placed in front of 5th on the Park condominiums has stirred up controversy in our comments section. The sculpture,created by Nigerian artist Nnamdi Okonkwo, is titled “Friends.” Some residents feel that the image of three large black women placed in front of a luxury condo in Harlem is an “affront” to the community. A reader of the blog wrote, “If this statue was placed somewhere else, such as across the street in the park, there would not be an issue. The placement of that statue is a kick in the face to our community!” The reader goes on to say that the majority of Harlem can’t afford to live in the luxury towers, but the message sent by the statue is that they are welcome to sit outside.
The artist’s intent was the exact opposite of those perceived by detractors. While some would describe the women as “voluptuous,” others describe them as “overweight.” The artist describes his work as more symbolic than literal forms of the human body, but the use of ample bodied women is intentional on his part. Okonkwo says on his website, “The big, rotund forms symbolize abundant life. It is an outward manifestation of a largeness of soul.”
The artist’s hope is that his work is “a source of inspiration to transcend the turmoil and unevenness of life” and that his sculptures will be capable of eliciting strong emotional responses from the viewer regardless of his or her background or race. In our opinion, Okonkwo’s intent has been achieved.