President Jomo Kenyatta was the very first major commission that James received.
The Kenyan government contacted the Royal Academy of Arts and James was recommended. James had the honour of spending some three weeks with the President and his entourage enabling him to talk to to the President, take photographs and make many drawings.
In 1973 before throngs of African leaders from the continent, the 12 foot seated figure was unveiled to mark 10 years of independence.
The 12 foot seated figure in the centre of Nairobi was a turning point in James’s career.
He was able to give up teaching sculpture and became a full time sculptor. It was the beginning of a meteoric career. as a figurative sculptor.
“I went over to Kenya to meet Kenyatta before the work began. I thought he was going to tell me what to do but he just asked me to tell him what I wanted. His ministers told me they wanted the statue seated, the President to be depicted as the Father of the Nation. He just sat there, very upright.
As soon as I saw him in that position, I thought the pose is natural to him, it’s simple and dignified, and that is how I am going to make the statue.
I took many photographs and measurements of him and made some quick drawings of his cloak. He sat very still for me for about three hours,”
- James Butler