The history behind Jomo Kenyatta statue at KICC

Five years after the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta became the President of the Republic of Kenya, he commissioned a British teacher to make a bronze sculpture that would become a landmark in the capital city, Nairobi.

In 1969, the late President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta commissioned James Butler, who was then a teacher at the City & Guilds of London Art School, to make the sculpture.

This marked the end of teaching career for Mr Butler, who embarked on the work to make the 12-feet sculpture.

According to archidatum.com, the cast bronze statue was entirely made in England with every detail intact and was then shipped from England by container to Mombasa and was then driven by truck to Nairobi and installed in its current location.

The statue was unveiled in 1973, five years before Kenyatta’s death and has remained the face of the Kenyatta International Convention Center (KICC) for 47 years now.

The statue of President Kenyatta looking ‘beyond’, dressed in a probably Italian suit covered with an African regalia and his signature cap reminds everyone who visits the KICC of the firebrand founding President, referred to many as a no-nonsense.

The mixture of African-wear and European-wear could be a symbolism indicating how Kenya borrowed a lot of European traditions in governance, while still maintaining its African identity.

Both of his hands rest on a bakora (staff), an African identity for the elderly, pointing out to his adopted name before death, Mzee which means elder.

The statue could be the most iconic in the country and an important piece of the Kenyan history.

Coincidentally, the statue stands a few metres from the 34 square feet Kenyatta mausoleum that was also designed by a foreigner, Mr George Vamos, a famous Israeli architect.

The mausoleum is located in the Parliament buildings, and is guarded 24 hours a day every week by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF). It is never open to the public.

For the first time in history since Mzee Kenyatta’s death, there was no public celebration of his death commemoration in 2020, as has been the culture.

Instead, the ceremony was held privately and only family members were present. It is reported that the ceremony was low key, and lasted only a few minutes.

During the last commemoration on August 22, 2019, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that the family had opted to discontinue the elaborate public commemoration of the event, in favour of a private event.