Exploring 'The Ark of Return' during Kwanzaa

Thursday, 04 January 2018

New York | DPI

The United Nations Remember Slavery Programme celebrated African heritage during the Kwanzaa celebration at the African Burial Ground National Monument in New York City on 27 December 2017.  Presenters from the UN, Rustam Makhmudov and Aamna Rashid, used slides, a video, and a trivia quiz to help the students learn about The Ark of Return, the Permanent Memorial to Honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the activities of the Remember Slavery Programme.

Kwanzaa is a week-long African-American holiday observed from 26 December through 1 January in the United States of America. It celebrates the traditional African values of family, community responsibility, commerce and self-improvement. Kwanzaa is derived from a Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza”, which signifies “first fruits of the harvest”.

“Exploring the Ark of Return” was one of several activities held at the African Burial Ground National Monument to celebrate “Kujichagulia”, or self-determination.  To underscore its importance, audience members also viewed the exhibit “A Legacy of Black Achievement”, jointly produced by the Remember Slavery team and the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, England.

The African Burial Ground National Monument is built at the site of a 6.6-acre burial ground where both free and enslaved Africans were buried from about the 1690s to 1794.  The burial grounds were rediscovered in 1991 during the planned construction process of a federal office building in what is now Lower Manhattan.


Rodney Leon is the architect of the outdoor memorial at the African Burial Ground as well as The Ark of Return at United Nations Headquarters. The video that was shown during the Kwanzaa celebration describes the remarkable journey Leon undertook to make The Ark a reality and remember the millions of men, women and children taken from their homes as slaves.  

The Ark of Return was unveiled on the Visitors’ Plaza in 15 March 2015. The Remember Slavery team will resume its guided tours in March 2018.