Think Africa Press speaks to Prof Dennis Curtis and Prof Judith Resnik from Yale Law School about the African studies in their new publication, Representing Justice. Exploring the symbolism of iconography in courts, Curtis and Resnik analyse the various roles and meanings of sculptures, architecture, and art in the courts of Africa, highlighting the power of imagery to evoke the past and project an ideal into the future.
Of the several courts mentioned in the book, Curtis and Resnik focus here on South Africa, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The intricate artwork of South Africa's constitutional court is a reference to its past and present, while Zambia's court provides a focal point for an analysis of the feminine imagery of justice. Congo's mysterious nailed figure of justice is argued to be a representation of the inescapable pain in both making a legal decision and rendering it. And, in the context of the on-going struggle in Libya, Curtis and Resnik consider the role of domestic courts, if any, in moments of crisis.
Thus, both the particular and universal aspects of law – and its symbolic iconography – are debated. The imagery of courts always carries a message; understanding that message will elucidate that the aesthetics of justice is crucial to the very idea of it.