Joseph Murumbi: Kenya's Second Vice President

Learn more about Kenya's second Vice President through the lens of legendary photographer Mohamed 'Mo' Amin.

By Mohamed Amin Foundation

Joseph Murumbi by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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Lover of the Arts, Kenya's Second Vice President

Joseph Murumbi was born in Kenya in 1911, from a Goan father and Maasai mother, the daughter of Murumbi, the Maasai Laibon (political leader) for the Uasin Gishu Maasai. He was the first Foreign Minister of Kenya and the nation’s second Vice President. He was instrumental in forming the country’s new constitution and was largely responsible for setting up the country’s embassies, high commissions and consulates at the time of independence.

Joseph Murumbi by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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Joseph Murumbi was an ardent supporter of the pioneer artists of East Africa, those artists who started their careers, against all odds, shortly after independence. He joined Alan Donovan in opening Africa’s first Pan African Gallery, 'African Heritage'.

Joseph Murumbi examines his collection by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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The gallery became a show window of African culture and the largest, most organised supplier of arts and crafts from Africa to the rest of the world for over three decades.

The Joseph Murumbi Collection. by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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He was probably the continent’s greatest private collector of art, books, postage stamps, artefacts, textiles, jewellery and everything African. His collection included 50,000 documents on Africa, many of which he acquired during the decade that he was in exile in England before Kenyan Independence.

Joseph Murumbi by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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Murumbi appealed to Margaret Kenyatta, the then-Mayor of Nairobi, to support artists, especially Francis Nnaggenda, who was teaching at the University of Nairobi at that time. He said he had bought five of the monumental works by this artist although no other African had ever bought one. He asked the Mayor to buy Nnaggenda’s huge works to display in public places in Nairobi. 

Jomo Kenyatta tries his hand on photography (1963) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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On 31 December 1966, the Kenyan Vice President, Joseph Murumbi, walked into President Kenyatta’s office at his vacation home in Mombasa where he usually spent the Christmas holidays, and announced: “Mzee (a term of respect for an elder) I wanted to hear from you whether it is ok for me to leave. Today is my last day." Murumbi recalls, "Mzee just turned his back on me and walked away. He didn’t answer my question. I think he didn’t want me to leave. I think he was hurt”. 

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