Once in a lifetime

The Tom Mboya statue in Nairobi

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It took 42 years and Sh20 million for Kenya to finally honour one of its greatest fallen heroes in cast bronze. “TJ” was assassinated on 5 July, 1969 as he stepped out of Channa’s Chemist, a few metres from where his statue stands.

The three-year effort of self-taught sculptor Oshoto Ondula shows Mboya in flowing Ghanaian kente robes, a gift from President Kwame Nkrumah, which he wore during his campaigns for Nairobi Constituency (now Kamukunji) during the 1960 General Election.
His right hand is stretched out to symbolise a leader reaching to his people and not looking down at them.

The statue stands on what symbolises Rusinga Island, where he was buried.
The fountain and flamingoes under the statue represent the aeroplanes used by Kenyan students in the now famous Mboya-fronted Airlift Africa educational project that saw Kenyan students study on scholarships in American universities in the late 1950s and 1960s.

The Ministry of National Heritage commissioned the statue’s tendering. Ondula was short-listed out of 20 hopefuls as he got Mboya’s face correct. The family approved.

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