Design

The Mombasa African Memorial was designed by sculptor James Alexander Stevenson

Photo used to design the monuement

The Mombasa African Memorial is one of three memorials to East African servicemen of the First World War. The other two are Nairobi African Memorial and Dar es Salaam African Memorial. Each memorial is unique but similar in form.

When it came to commemorating the servicemen of East Africa who had died during the First World War, the Commission departed from its established convention.

Without any reliable records of the names of the dead, it was decided that the memorials should be figurative rather than the abstract architectural form the Commission had adopted elsewhere. It was felt this would connect with local people better than a European architectural style. The erection of three memorials and not just one was also a departure from Commission practice of creating a single point of commemoration. This was intended to increase the number of people who could see the memorials across East Africa.

It was important that the statues should be as accurate as possible and so photographs of African servicemen were taken and sent to the sculptor. These detailed the different physical characteristics typical of the tribes whose members served with the British forces, as well as details of weapons, uniform and equipment used during the war.

The artist selected to design the memorials was James Alexander Stevenson, a notable sculptor, who worked under the pseudonym MYRANDER – a conflation of his wife’s Christian name and his own second Christian name. Stevenson had attended both the Royal College of Art and the Royal Academy of Art and his work included a bust of King George V in naval uniform produced during the war.

Each statue began as a clay sculpture in Stevenson’s studio in London. Members of the Commission took a keen interest in the project and several visited Stevenson’s studio to see how the work was progressing. These clay figures were then taken to the Morris Art Bronze Foundry in Westminster London, where moulds were formed and then bronze statues cast.

Each of the statues weighed around three-quarters of a ton, and once completed they were exhibited at the Royal Academy before being transported to East Africa for installation.

The Mombasa African Memorial is formed by four statues: a scout of the Intelligence Corps, an Arab rifleman, a soldier of the King’s African Rifles and a member of the Carrier Corps.

Constructing the memorial

The Mombasa African Memorial differs from those at Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in that it also depicts an Arab Riflemen. Mombasa and the surrounding coastal regions are home to Arab communities – descendants of settlers from the Arabian Peninsula who had settled in East Africa. Britain recruited amongst these communities to form the Arab Rifles which saw service during the war.

The dedication on the memorial is written in English and Swahili in both Roman and Arabic characters. The wording was chosen by the Commission’s literary advisor Rudyard Kipling:

This is to the memory of the Arab and native African troops who fought, to the carriers who were the feet and hands of the army; and to all other men who served and died for their King and Country in eastern Africa in the Great War 1914-1918 If you fight for your country even if you die your sons will remember your name