An untold story behind the teacher who created the KICC statue of Jomo Kenyatta

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It is arguably the most popular statue in Kenya alongside other freedom fighters and politicians such as Tom Mboya and Dedan Kimathi.

However, not much is known about how the statue of Kenyatta the Seated Representative was erected at the Kenya International Conference Center.

According to historical records, the artwork was completed by British sculptor James Butler in 1969. The artwork was unveiled in 1973 (when the KICC opened) to mark 10 years of the ‘independence.

The cast bronze statue was entirely made in England with every detail intact and was then shipped from England by container to Mombasa, then trucked to Nairobi and set up at its current location.

In his memoir, Butler said his meeting with Kenyatta gave the idea of ​​what type of statue to make.

I went to Kenya to meet Kenyatta before the work started. I thought he was going to tell me what to do but he just asked me to tell him what I wanted. His ministers told me that they wanted the statue to be seated, for the president to be represented as the father of the nation “, he wrote.

The late president gave the sculptor a morning where he agreed to sit down for a session. They met in a small cottage with just a table and a few chairs.

Kenyatta asked me what he should do, and I asked him if he would be willing to sit comfortably in a chair so that I could watch him. He sat down, his hands clasped on his cane, his legs slightly apart.

He was just setting there real straight. As soon as I saw him in this position, I thought the pose was natural, simple and dignified to him, and this is how I am going to make the statue. I took many photos and measurements of him and made some quick drawings of his cape. He sat very still for me for about three hours», Explained Butler.

There was no time for a detailed drawing and no time to get clay and do modeling, so Butler took a lot of pictures of the stick he was holding, and the first thing he was holding. made after returning to England was to make a double life. life-size replica of it.

The top of the stick was shaped like an elephant head which was carved and glued to the top of the replica.

After making the stick, the sculptor proceeded to make the statue using the measurement of the stick to create the correct proportions.

The end result was so iconic that it mimicked all of Mzee Kenyatta’s hallmarks, right down to her birthmark and open-toed sandals.

A view from all angles of this statue shows you how integral it is to KICC Square.

The majestic 12-foot seated figure in the center of Nairobi was a turning point in his career. He gave up teaching and became a full-time sculptor.


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