by Stanley Bennett Clay

(reprinted from SBC June 97)

The dot on Mother's forehead represents the pineal gland and our spiritual "third eye".

Her feather represents peace, truth, and righteousness.

Mother's exposed breast represents the milk of humanity that has nourished all nations on Earth.

Mother's open palm extends a gesture of welcome.

Her left foot strides forward indicating the willingness to go forward, take action, and to stamp our evil.  - Nijel

   He himself is a work of art.  At 40 he still looks like a strikingly beautiful college coed not yet surrendered to cynicism.  his skin is dark and smooth, his smile is full and bright, yet contemplative.  His body, kept taunt and lean and chiseled trim through meditation, a sensible but satisfying diet and his work on movie sets as an actor, stunt man and martial artist, proves that masculine beauty is not always gym bulk.

   His name is a combination of English and ancient Hebrew.  It means "Black Prince of God".  And he carries himself that way, but not arrogantly.  He was born in London of a Jamaican mother and a West African father, educated in a Catholic prep school there.  He came to Los Angeles and lives near the USC campus where privilege exists on an unsecured island surrounded by a sea of poverty and criminal political neglect dubbed South Central by drama-hungry media blonds.

   He has seen and heard the reports, like most of the world, on what Watts was all about, the place that twice incinerated itself like a Buddhist Priest self-torched in protest.

   His name, that combination of English and ancient Hebrew, meaning "Black Prince of God", is Nijel.  Just Nijel.  And he is an artist, a sculptor who, through his art, ahs too added to the resurrection of the Phoenix from the ashes of social unrest in La Ciudad De Los Angeles, The City of the Angels.

   In September of 1995, he began to sculpt a statue of a woman.  Today, this 16 foot 2 ton bronze work of art stands proudly in front of the newly renovated Watts Labor Community Action Committee, located at 11950 So. Central Avenue.

   "We suffered a $4 million loss when our headquarters was burned down during the 1992 riots," said Teryl Watkins, president of the Committee and the daughter of the late Ted Watkins, who developed the WLCAC more than 30 years ago as a community based self-help organization.

   "We are using that $4 million in insurance money to create a cultural center which will be an entre to the billion dollar tourism industry in Southern California.

   "For us, the monument, with her open palm, means a welcoming to Los Angeles via Watts, one of the most well known cities in the world."

   The Artist explains it this way: "In my quest for a means to promote truth and understanding for humanity after the 1992 rebellion in Los Angeles, I created a monument that embodies a unique set of physical features and spiritual symbols.  She is African, Indian, European, Oriental, Latin American, Native American, Old World and New.  Some have called her the Black Statue of Liberty.  She is The Mother of Humanity™, and I believe she is the symbol of our times."

   "Nijel has done a masterful job of creating the features," Watkins added.  "You can look at her lips and know that she is a black woman, with braids.  But when you look at her other features, she could be anybody.  She's got it all."

   Nijel whose other work includes a redesign of the Los Angeles Urban League's Whitney M. Young Jr. Award; the "Artist of the Decade" Award, a miniature bronze presented to Michael Jackson by Sony Records; and the "Maasai Princess", created for Stevie Wonder's birthday and showcased in his video "Keep Love Alive", initially conceived of the Watts-based monument as two women--an African American and a Korean---as a means of easing inflamed tensions between those two ethnic group, but realizing that the community was more ethnically diverse, revised the idea so that the statue would represent all of humanity through one towering image.

   "The legend and meaning behind The Mother of Humanity™ reveals it to be a true time capsule," the Artist explains.  "Why do some see her as a Black Statue of Liberty?  Perhaps in our collective wisdom we recognize the unspoken truth that the original design for the Statue of Liberty was a Black woman!  Edouard Rene lefevre de Laboulaye was the head of the French Anti-Slavery Society in 1865 when he envisioned a monument to American for freeing her slaves.  Racism prevented the installation of the Statue of Liberty with her original African features, but the broken chains of slavery, as they appeared in the original design, can still be found at the feet of the Statue of Liberty today.

   "The dot on the Mother's forehead is a symbol older than the Statue of Liberty by far.  It can be found in ancient cultures throughout the world.  Many women from India wear a dot on their forehead.  The earliest settlers of India, the Dravidians, shared a spiritual tradition with ancient Kemet (Pharonic Egypt) where such symbols as a dot or any mark on the forehead, were symbolic of higher spiritual insight.  this is why the mark has been called the "third eye".  In the Orient images of Buddha always show a dot on the forehead.  The dot is also symbolic of the pineal gland which is located in the center of the brain.  The pineal gland is about the size of a pea and is responsible for the production of melanin, the substance that gfives skin it's color and is a key to higher levels of spiritual thought, physical coordination, and so on. 

   "The feather in Mother's right hand is an ancient Kemetic symbol.  It was used by the Goddess Maat.  In the Kemetic tradition, when we die our hearts were placed on one end of the scale and the feather of Maat on the other.  If we lived a righteous life, our hearts, in the balance, should be as light as a feather.  That tradition of peace, truth, and righteousness became the Native American way of life.  It is a little known fact that the Native American and the ancient Egyptian are cousins, with a common reverence for such shared symbols as the feather of Maat.

   "Mother's exposed right breast represents the milk of Mother Africa that continues to nourish all nations on earth.  Indeed, many nations today have not yet weaned themselves from the gold, diamonds, and precious minerals that they take from the African soil.  Here on the North American continent, the exposed breast reminds many elders of a day not long gone when white slave masters gave their children over to be suckled at the breast of black slave mothers.

   "But The Mother of Humanity™ is not just a symbol of the nurturing woman," he reminds. "She also represents the woman as warrior.  In  the ancient tradition of the Amazons, she reminds us of the courage of those women archers who took valor to new heights when they would have their left breasts surgically amputated to make it easier to draw the bow.  Their skill as archers is legendary.

   "Even linguistically, in the word "Amazon" (or "mother-sun"), the message of the Mother still strikes a resounding cord for unity.  "Ama" means "mother".  It is the same "ama" used in the Korean language for "mother".  It is the same "ama" as in the Spanish language for "mother".  In the English language we find the "ama" in "Mama".  The message of our first teachers of truth and peace empowers women, our mothers.

   Nijel also notes that the Mother's left hand is extended in a gesture of welcome, calling all of her children together, while her left foot strides forward in the ancient Kemetic tradition.  the heart, being on the left side of the body, was in unison with the movement taken by the left foot to go forward, take action, and stamp out evil.

   "Could this be why military soldiers today start their march with 'left-right-left-right"?

   "People will have to assess that MF phrase and a lot of other things.  Once one can respect their mothers, they have respect for their wives and daughters.  This gives the power, the respect back to mothers.  That's a powerful idea.  We're saying, you're responsible for the children you produce---not the city, not the county, not the school; you are responsible.  they're glad to see the empowerment...In many countries in the world, their power as nurturers, as teachers, as warriors, is taken away by men.

   "All life originates in Africa," he states with dignity. "For me, it is an honor to pay tribute to women of the world and to the mother of all nations of man, the African mother of humanity.

   Nijel, who is fluent in both Cantonese and Russian, believes that his statue would not be as relevant anywhere else but right here in Watts, since Watts, in his opinion, represents the heart of the African American community.

   This Watts-based monument to the origin of man is the first of seven proposed identical statues to be installed at as yet undetermined locations in Africa, Australia, Brazil, China, Indian and Spain, and represents the Artist's statement for peace worldwide.

   "I had to do something to let people know that deep down inside we really are one people.  We have to promote love and peace.  That's what this about.  We all come from the same place.  That's what The Mother of Humanity™ celebrates."

© 1997 SBC Magazine