Nairobi County Government has bowed to pressure and replaced the lion sculpture that Kenyans on the internet called ‘ugly and embarrassing’. A new one that bears closer semblance to a real lion has been put up after Kenyans on social media questioned the professionalism of the artists who crafted the statue.
On Saturday morning, Nairobi City council workers were seen polishing and fixing the replacement after an internet uproar called on Governor Mike Sonko to pull down the lion statue that had been erected on the University Way roundabout.
“Who made that ugly thing that is staring at us at University way? Couldn’t they get a better artist?” a user on facebook asked.
Comments on the post said it was scary and a mockery of the beautification of the city programme that the county government embarked on last year.
Images of the lion went viral, attracting several comments and questions from users who wanted to know who approved for the lion to be displayed.
The county government through their communication person Elkana Jacob now claims the ‘ugly lion’ was an incomplete project, and the artist working on it had put his tools down for a while to do his examination.
“He is just a young volunteer and was only being given a token of appreciation to motivate him,” said Elkana.
He said the county government allowed the young artist to showcase his skills by giving him an opportunity to work on the statue.
He later retracted his comment and said it was done by Oshoto Ondula who has worked on other major projects for the county including the Tom Mboya statue and Jaramogi’s mausoleum.
Speaking on phone, Oshoto said before creating the concept, he had a meeting with the county department of environment and Governor Mike Sonko; and they agreed that a lion statue would best represent Nairobi County.
“We have a lion in our coat of arms and we felt it was best to use it in our beautification,” said Osolo.
Elkana insists they did not replace the sculptor, but that the artists had just taken a small break and returned to finish the art yesterday morning.
“Good things take much time and often involve a very elaborate process. The mounting and finishing of such a Statue had to be taken through different artistic steps towards the final artwork by our local artists from Nairobi. Many of my lovely critics missed out for not knowing what it takes to plan, design, make and mount a life-size statue from start to finish. The work has to be done in meticulous stages starting with a "dummy" to facilitate taking of measurements and planning the installation work,” Sonko wrote on his official facebook page.
Insiders however say in the dead of the night, the ugly lion was whisked off and a sparkly one put in its place when more people started making mockery of the lion. Since the statue was put early this week, motorists and pedestrians have been stopping to snap photos and have a chuckle. A replica of the new lion sculpture has been erected along Kenyatta Avenue round about.
Sonko’s obsession with lions is evident from the huge statue that sits at the entrance of his Runda home. At city hall, two lions have been mounted by the door, and his home in Mua also has lions at the entrance.
He said he plans to make statutes of the big five animals to celebrate Nairobi City County's unique heritage as the only capital City in the World with a National Park.
"So many people come from so far to see our Big Game and it is only fair we give them an idea of what to expect once they venture beyond the streets of Nairobi," said Sonko.