By Dikembe Disembe
When I urged Dr. Kidero to uproot the statue of Tom Mboya and commission a befitting emblem for him, I was speaking from a pedestal of having travelled a few places in this world where this ‘statue business’ is a serious business.
Soon after the statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was unveiled in Washington DC, African Americans rejected a particular inscription on the memorial.
Dr King’s memorial – where his statue, 30 feet high, stands – is a stretch of artwork in a corner of DC reserved for America’s greatest men.
The memorial includes the stone statue and several quotes, including the ‘drum major’ quote which stoked controversy, leading to its removal.
The onslaught on the offending quote was led by the late African American poet and writer Maya Angelou, who charged that the quote made Dr. King appear arrogant.
The inscription was picked from a sermon Dr King delivered to a congregation in Atlanta, but the context of use in the statue was different.
It led to the ‘shut down’ of the memorial during which a stakeholder forum was called to deliberate on the issue. In the end, rather than replace the quote, it was altogether removed.
The quote was, simply, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” But at the time of delivering it, Dr. King had said, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”
In my view, whenever there exists sufficient grounds to believe that an artistic impression of a historical figure is fundamentally at variance with the real person, a review of that ‘impression’ is necessary.
It is time to review the statue of Tom Mboya.
I will continue to prod Dr. Kidero to review Tom Mboya statue. I am convinced that the statue of Tom Joseph Mboya outside National Archives has failed both ‘structural integrity’ test (for instance, the hand is shorter, making it appear disproportionate to the whole body) and ‘historical significance’ test.
If our impressions of historical figures are convoluted, we can still fail. Deep.