By Nii B. Andrews.
A monumental sculpture entitled “Justice for All” by the artist Yinka Shonibare is available for viewing 24/7 at the Steve Friedman Gallery in London.
Two aspects of the sculpture are striking.
First, it is clothed in ankle length batik or if you prefer, African print.
Shonibare makes a bold accurate assertion in reclaiming Justice as an African concept dating back to the ancient Egyptians from the Old Kingdom (c. 2686 – c. 2134 B.C.E) who called her Ma’at and considered her as one of the first daughters of the sun god Ra (Re).
The time of her birth coincides with the time that Ra set forth to create the universe. Her association with the feather was so profound that the feather became the Egyptian hieroglyph for “truth”.
With the scales in her left hand, she weighs each individual heart against a feather in the Hall of Ma’at and pronounces judgement.
Thoth, the god of knowledge and wisdom was often seen as the consort/husband of Ma’at.
Ma’at was considered omnipresent – as cosmic law, and thus needed no temples dedicated to her.
Second, Shonibare utilizes a globe for the head; a poignant reminder of the universality of justice; it transcends geographical location, identity and culture.
This is a clever allusion since from the 15th century Lady Justice has been depicted wearing a blind fold thus emphasizing that justice is or should be meted out objectively, without fear or favour, regardless of money, wealth, power, or identity; blind justice and impartiality.
The double-edged sword in her right hand, symbolizes the power of Reason and Justice, which may be wielded either for or against any party. There ought never to be any rust on it.
Every holy book contains eloquent exhortations to justice. It is an absolute that needs no qualification whatsoever; there is nothing like revolutionary justice; it does not exist; it is an oxymoron.
Simply put, “Justice is that sense of right which teaches us to render to every man his due, and that without distinction.This virtue is likewise the standard and cement of civil society.”
As a reflection of its prime importance throughout the ages, today, the cry “No justice: No peace” is heard from multiple locations across the globe.
Among the prudent and enlightened, justice is always tempered with compassion and mercy. The fact of human fallibility renders both compassion and mercy as indispensable instruments when asked to sit in judgement.