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Daily Nation : February 16th 2014
SUNDAY NATION February 16, 2014 CULTURE | Sikh community disappointed over the violent reaction to memorial sculpture Some Kenyans are just ignorant about art, regrets sculptor Kenyatta and Oginga tombs and Mboya statue are some of Mr Ondula’s other renowned works BY ELVIS ONDIEKI @OndiekiMogere firstname.lastname@example.org M r Oshottoe Ondula is a disheartened man. His voice does not conceal what he feels inside, nor do his gestures. As the artist behind the contro- versial sculpture in Kisumu that didn’t last for more than three days, Mr Ondula is convinced there are people who know far too little about art. That a work that took him several months to create was brought down so unceremoniously last weekend is something that angers the artist born in Kisumu County 50 years ago. Not even former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who enjoys massive support in the area, could stop the mob from destroying the sculpture of a figure in prayer. In an interview with the Sunday Nation, Mr Ondula (inset) said the figure, commissioned by the Kisumu Sikh community to mark 100 years since they built their temple in the lakeside city, was a work of art like any other and was not an idol as alleged. “It was just a symbol of a woman who is praying in peace. I did not do it with a particular religion in mind,” he said. In any case, he argued, there would be nothing wrong even if it represented a Sikh praying. “The Constitution guarantees freedom of worship. Everybody should be respected irrespective of their faith. The Sikh community did not ask anyone to bow down before any figure,” Mr Ondula said. The Mosque Road roundabout, where the sculpture was placed, is a few metres from the Siri Guru Singh Sabha, a Sikh temple built in 1913. This was a different Ondula from the man this writer met on January 8. He was proud of FILE | NATION Demonstrators attack a sculpture erected by the Sikh community in Kisumu town on February 6, 2014. I did not do it with any particular religion in mind... did not ask anyone to bow down” Mr Oshottoe Ondula, artist what he was doing. Two lion models and the figure were in the works, and he couldn’t wait to add another feather to his cap by introducing public art to Kisumu. But this was not to be. Even before the black black polythene wrapping could be removed on February 6, demonstrators took to the streets of Kisumu. Initially, Mr Ondula was not shaken. “We decided to unwrap it so they could see what it was. But it looks like the people had already made up their minds.” Two days later, its fate had been decided by “mob justice”. Mr Ondula is a veteran in the field. His hands, which he moved animatedly during the interview, are the same that created the Tom Mboya statue in Nairobi. The likeness of the Kenyan politician assassinated in 1969 has also attracted its fair share of controversy as fans of Gor Mahia football club often congregate at the site to “pray”, or express their disatisfaction. As a result, parts of the statue, erected on Tom Mboya Street, have been damaged. The Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga mausoleums are also the results of his workmanship. He even has a photo of a marble sculpture that Queen Elizabeth II was given by former President Daniel arap Moi when the British monarch visited Kenya in 1983. Mr Ondula said most of the world’s cities recognise public art, and the people of Kisumu should embrace such creations. “In Brazil, there is a 50-metre statue of Jesus erected on a hill. It doesn’t mean that everybody there is a Catholic,” he said. “Monuments are important landmarks.” Upset His work, he explains, could create jobs for Kisumu residents. “Somebody will discover that he has to come here in the morning and take photographs as a source of income. The number of young people who took photos of the statue was so many. That means that there was something unique about it,” he said. Equally disappointed is Mr Charanjeet Hayer, the chairman of the Kisumu Sikh community. A man who is characteristically publicity-shy, Mr Hayer said there is nothing more universal than an image of a person in prayer. “We call it the monument of peace. It is a very common thing, picked from the works of art of people in the locality,” he said. He explained that in addition to beautifying the area, the purpose of the sculpture was to mark the centenary of the Sikh temple in Kisumu. “We felt that after 100 years of existence here, we had a part to play in the enhancement of this area in collaboration with the local people,” he said. Sunday Review 25 State House visit was Kisii County affair, say Nyamira leaders BY HENRY NYARORA email@example.com Nyamira county leaders have given reasons why they failed to accomany their Kisii county counterparts to State House last week. The visit was organised by Informa- tion Secretary Mr Fred Matiang’i, and Kisii Governor James Ongwae. The leaders say their Kisii coun- terparts have been using them to get favours from the government. Borabu MP Ben Momanyi said Wednesday’s State House visit was for Kisii leaders only. “Kisii leaders had their own agenda. Nyamira leaders were not informed of that agenda and therefore we could not just accompany them for the sake of it,” Mr Momanyi said. He spoke during the burial of Mrs Jerusha Kerebi Obutu, mother in-law to Nyamira Governor John Nyagarama at Keginga village, Borabu district. “Nyamira County leaders have their own unique issues to raise with the Head of State.” Mr Nyagarama steered clear of the controversial visit when he addressed the mourners. Mr Momanyi sentiments were echoed by Nyamira County Assembly majority leader Beauttah Omanga who said history had shown that their Kisii counterparts had been using Nyamira leaders to get goodies from the government. “Kisii leaders have been using us to lobby for government appointments to their advantage,” he said. He said Nyamira County is inde- pendent and that their governor is capable of organising a State House visit to meet with the President. Wrong notion “Kisii leaders use our community to make a large delegation to State House. The national government is made to believe that whatever it allocates to our community is evenly distributed, which is not the case,” Mr Omanga said. Since independence, the Abagusii community have been awarded with senior government positions. It’s only Mr Henry Obwocha, from Nyamira who was a cabinet minister during the Kibaki regime. Mr Omanga said it was an insult to Governor Nyagarama when Mr Ongwae said at the funeral that he organised by Kisii leaders. Getting an opportunity to see the president is a rare,” she said. Timothy Bosire (Kitutu Masaba MP) was also in the State House delegation. His counterparts Dr James Gesami (West Mugirango), Mr Momanyi (Borabu), Charles Geni (North Mugirango) and the Senator Kennedy Mong’are Okong’o boycotted the visit. Speaking separately at Menyenya High School, Mr Matiangi said Gusii leaders are not ready to work with the Jubilee government because of their affiliation to Cord. “Elected leaders should be ready to work together irrespective of their political parties to benefit their electorate,” he said. He said the State House visit was FILE | NATION President Uhuru Kenyatta chats with some of the Kisii leaders who called on him at State House, Nairobi last Wednesday. led leaders from the two counties to State House. However, Nyamira County Women Representative Alice Nyanchoka Chae faulted her colleagues for skipping the meeting with the President. “It is wrong for my colleagues to boycott the visit simply because it was fruitful because President Kenyatta will be touring Kisii and Nyamira counties soon. “The Abagusii community must shun clan politics because such politics will not benefit their electorate. We need to work as a community and stop spending a lot of time saying that if we do certain things it will benefit a particular person or region,” he said.
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