Branly Cadet – Sculptor of City Hall’s Octavius Catto monument
There’s a new monument in town – the first to honor a black person in Philadelphia.
Sculptor of the posthumous Octavius Catto monument, Branly Cadet, is re-igniting the legacy of black educator, leader, Major, and athlete Catto.
This figure not only represents the courage of the Civil Rights struggles of yesterday, but also those still that lay ahead. The unveiling of the Catto statue comes during a time when monuments have become a nationwide discussion. Philadelphia is moving the conversation forward by not only talking about statues that need to come down, but taking action and building a monument that represents someone who stood for unity, call to action, and equality for all.
Cadet now gets to observe locals interact with the statue he sculpted of civil rights pioneer Catto. As a black artist building the first public statue of a black historic figure in Philadelphia, Cadet is inspired by Catto’s strides for racial equality. Cadet says,
“That brings the personal dimension where for me… along with the living stakeholders, there are plenty of ancestral stakeholders who… play a role in how this comes out, so for me I felt beholden to their legacy too.”
The responsibility to artists, stakeholders, activists and black people fall heavy when designing a statue at the birthplace of America that will stand for years to come. This figure does not only represent greatness from our history, but also those who fight today for civil rights and those who will continue to fight in the future and will be able to look back at this piece as a checkpoint in history.
Local Philadelphian, Stevie Rogers, feels a personal investment in this statue as well; being it’s the first dedicated to a black person in Philadelphia. Rogers says,
“Something not bad about our culture… They’re not making fun, they’re not trying to bastardize it… It’s great. I’m pretty proud of it. I’m going to definitely find out who he is now.”
The response to the statue has been positive, which is contraire to much of the divisive rhetoric we have heard around race and statues today. This piece has inspired those like Rogers to find out more about black history and its tie to Philadelphia.
Lifelong resident of Philadelphia, Temple University alum, and co-author of Octavius Catto’s biography Tasting Freedom, Murray Dubin, also feels a personal investment to this statue. Dubin says,
“It’s extraordinary… The sculptor’s a gentleman named Branly Cadet, did such a great job. I just think people’s reaction is wonderful and the fact that we finally have a statue to an African-American is something long overdue… it’s emotional, it’s a big deal…”
Cadet says every facet of the monument has a layer of meaning down to the style of marble used surrounding the statue. Cadet,
“The actual name of the granite is called Rainbow Granite and it also says “ALL PEOPLES” on it”,
Which is a representation of the unity Catto stood for.
Cadet encourages each Philadelphian to have their own interpretation of the symbolism the Catto status represents. Cadet concludes,
“So to me, his open arms is an invitation to invoke the presence of his past collaborators, his present collaborators, and hopefully his future collaborators.”
The Octavius Catto monument is located towards the south-end of City Hall.
Branly Cadet: Artist; email@example.com; 917-597-9329