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For this year’s International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the United Nations unveiled a special memorial honoring the theme of “Women and Slavery.”

The piece, called “The Ark of Return” by Rodney Leon, was chosen in 2013 out of over 300 entries from all over the world. While the piece represents the millions of people forced into the tragic transatlantic slave trade, this year focused on women in slavery and their ability to keep African cultures alive despite the enduring hardships they suffered.

“Not only did enslaved women endure the harsh conditions of forced labor, they were also victims of sexual exploitation,” said Cristina Gallach, under-secretary-general for communications and public information, in a statement. “Yet somehow, these remarkable women found the inner reserves and the strength to cope and to fight back against an inconceivably cruel and inhuman system.”

Leon also expressed his love for the project and how his Haitian roots inspired the piece.

“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.”

The memorial is comprised of three parts showing the actual migration in process. The androgynous human sculpture, which is made of Zimbabwean granite, represents the 15 million men, women, and children in the trade. The extended hand and tears flowing from the sculpture help set up the triangle waterfall located outside of the memorial, representing the future.

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Leon calls all of the elements factors of importance for children to understand the transatlantic trade.

“It’s really about dealing with our current conditions of contemporary slavery and how that actually is something we need to be fighting today,” he says. “It’s about acknowledging that condition and thinking about future generations and educating future generations so this tragedy doesn’t happen again in the future. So that’s why it’s pointing the way forward for us after you’ve passed through.”

You can check more of the memorial here and a live stream of the United Nations’ events here.


UN Reveals New York Memorial To Honor Victims Of Transatlantic Slave Trade  was originally published on