Tom Mboya Monument/ Oshoto Ondula
Commissioner: Kenya Government
Sculptor : Oshoto Ondula
Cost: Ksh 20 million
Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Photographs: Mwangi Billy
Article_ Kililo J. Mtamu
This monument, a three year work of sculptor Oshoto Ondula, is touted as a narrative of resistance that reminds Kenyans of whom he was and what he stood for. The architecture in this is more so symbolism at its best with flamingoes, a wide stretched hand and the central isolation of the monument. Made from fortified synthetic leather to mimic the stony appeal, the famed statue that defines the tom Mboya streetscape has quickly become a spot for public activity with people gathering around it for both the mystery and the well-defined space within it. Within this block lies the spirit of tom Mboya. It was unveiled by Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki on the eve of Mashujaa Day as tribute to the fallen ‘hero’.
The statue is rich in historic symbolism and depicts Tom Mboya in flowing Ghanian Kente Robes that he got as a token form Kwame Nkrumah. His right hand is stretched out to depict a leader reaching out and his whole demeanor is that of a man not looking down upon people. The statue stands on a podium symbolic of Rusinga Island.
The materiality on stone imitation though a robust move is quickly brought back into place by the reality that it resides within giants in the names of the Kenya National Archives, The Norwich union building and the Hilton which tame the grunge effect of the statue. Also at this service are the flamingoes painted pink and the numerous vegetation samples around it that seem to all sort to create that soft spoken touch to it. Its spatial quality can only be compared to the Jomo Kenyatta statue that is an island by itself and can be approached from multiple areas both visually and physically.
Also in comparison is the ability for it to be revered from close range with it being raised above the normal human height. While some critics may argue that this lives it bereft with no human contact, the statue seems to enjoy that foresight above the city, seeing far like the man it is meant to stand for.
For the designer of the statue, the challenge was to come up with a statue that best defines the spatial quality of the square that for long had been a neglected space that bore the fumes of the heavy traffic. What the statue sort to do was both create spatial continuity in that people could walk around it and view it and still there be a space where people can sit and enjoy the square and the statue as a wholesome experience.
Approaching the statue from all sides gives you that elusive transitional space in that there is a gap (a substantial one at that) between the buildings and the statue and therefore there is quite some room to maneuver within it. Also with the placement at the middle and the landscaping efforts of the peripheral curb bordering the grass facing the main Tom Mboya Street, space has been created for sitting that doubles up as a retaining wall.