History of Mama Africa
In late 1980, USIU-Africa moved from its Hurlingham residence to the Mayfair Hotel, a property owned by the Mavoloni Land Buying Company, a Kamba- owned land acquisition firm. Given the Kamba community’s reputation for wood carving, the company directors commissioned a sculpture that symbolized Africa's struggles, envisioned as a mother figure. The Company’s chairman aimed to represent Africa's inherent pride in being a nurturing mother, and the sculpture found its place on the hotel's lawns.
This iconic sculpture, located in USIU-Africa’s courtyard at the Mayfair, became a symbol of unity for students, international faculty, and a focal point for various university events. Dr. Lillian Beam was the first to recognize its significance, crafting poems inspired by the motherhood symbol. It also played a pivotal role in Black History Month celebrations and began to gain recognition and prominence within the student community.
Around this time, Africa was recognizing the essential role of mothers in family stability, and Dr. Lillian Beam continued to write poems, transforming the statue into a revered figure among students. As Mayfair was sold, the university purchased property from the Nyagah family, and the sculpture was inherited by the students. They moved the masterpiece and mounted the icon on a platform behind the Vice Chancellor's office.
"Mother Africa" was the focal point of all events, and ceremonies revolved around her. Notably, she was present during USIU-Africa’s accreditation by President Daniel Arap Moi.
In 2013, exposure to harsh weather led to her deterioration, so she was temporarily removed from her iconic platform for the university to decide on her fate. In 2014, under the leadership of Dr. Mbole, the Alumni Office initiated a campaign to bring "Mother Africa" to her final and permanent resting place within the USIU-Africa Library. The project received immense support from various individuals and organizations, including the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Freida Brown, the DVC Institutional Planning and Advancement, Dr. Willie Butler, the University Council Chair, Kris Senanu, the late Jorgen Holmstrom, Beatrice Ndinda, Leah Gichuki, SAC Leadership 20, Cementers Construction LTD. Eric Manya and ERICO were identified by the university to restore the icon.
The restoration process was an extensive one, involving the creation of a solid foundation using metal pegs, fiberglass, and resin, with the finish designed to resemble the trunk of an ancient tree. In 2015, when the project was completed, the heavy sculpture was carefully transported to the library, where she would be sheltered from adverse weather conditions.
The project team, led by Dr. Mbole and Kris Senanu, presented the beautifully restored statue to Prof. Frieda Brown. Remarkably, the sculpture was placed symmetrically to face the university gate, serving as a symbol of motherly protection over the entire community.