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A sculpture created as a memorial to Nigerian environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists has been denied entry to Nigeria, where it had been sent as a gift to mark the 20th anniversary of their execution by the military government.
Guardian UK reports that Customs officials impounded Sokari Douglas Camp’s sculpture, in the form of a steel bus, when it arrived at Lagos port on 8 September, on grounds of its “political value”. Leaflets and reports sent by courier to commemorate Saro-Wiwa’s life and death were also seized.
Subsequent efforts by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Social Action and other pressure groups have failed to secure the work’s release and a memorial vigil in Bori-Ogoni may have to go ahead without it.
Celestine AkpoBari, national coordinator for the Ogoni Solidarity Forum-Nigeria, has spent the past two months working to secure the release of the sculpture, called The Bus – Living Memorial, from a secure area of Lagos port and remains determined to get it to Ogoniland, nine hours’ drive from Lagos, next week.
“I have been fortunate to see the bus in London but it will be so exciting to see it in Nigeria, I don’t know if I might faint,” he told the Guardian. “It will give so much happiness and strength and every Ogoni will want to come home and see it. We are still looking forward to hearing the good news, we need the bus because it is the symbol of our struggle now that Ken is not with us. We will use the presence of the bus to begin another era of our campaign for justice.”
The Bus was commissioned following a competition to mark the 10th anniversary of the executions and first exhibited outside the Guardian’s London offices in 2006. The artist described her work as a “spectacle” and symbol of the importance of transport to environmental debate.