Elimo Njau’s last supper mural, (in Murang’a Murals by Harold F Miller).
The Last supper scene is one of 10 the most important murals on the walls of St. James’ All Martyrs Memorial Cathedral in Murang’a.
The picture depicts Jesus, at home in Murang’a, using an old spoon, a ciihiru to serve his disciples, admonishing us the onlookers of a remote event without which our faith would be in utter disaster. It shows to the credibility of faith, founded articulated in this proclamation: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again”. This is the theological and liturgical account of this mural.
The portrait is a testimony of history. It communicates to us stories of other followers of Christ. Those who made the story presented here their own. They drew it in their blood, tears, fears, and sweat, African and black. For they took their spot on the Lord’s table as Christian A’gikuyu, disregarding the Mau Mau oath administers who demanded confession that they were “Agikuyu karing’a”.
We recognize faces Njau engraved on the murals covering walls of the St James Cathedral. Among them was Rehab Ngendo, who opposed her tormentors… “I have drunk the Blood of Christ and how can I return to drink your goats’ blood?” They hoisted her up by the neck, but the Mau Mau oath she would not take. What about William Macharia who in 1954 refused to take the Mau Mau oath. They buried him to the neck. No amount of intimidation would persuade Macharia’s wife to take the oath and spare him. She belonged to Gaturume (lamb- Jesus).
They hallowed this ground for us, they dedicated this Cathedral for us. They gave this place its name, ‘Martyrs Memorial Cathedral’. These are people we knew, or we may know about, for their testimony filled our nation.
As Anglicans assemble in this space Sunday after Sunday, our fears and the seductions of our times may blur the martyr’s message. The message Rev. John Gatu got, when he led Christians to dismiss the Gatundu oaths of 1969.
The mural warns us that last supper is incongruous to all others. The martyrs are signalling us to value the ‘gaturume’ over the blood of goats. Can Christians, priests and Bishops take part in the practices of athuri a kĩama kia mbũri, administer in bloody ngurarios and irua ceremonies and minister the Lord’s table? I pray we are found true to the Lamb’s table.
The murals depict the tombstones of martyrs, hundreds, and thousands, who met their death with utmost cruelty: they inscribed their names on the plaques at the exits of All Martyrs (St. James) Cathedral, Murang‘a, for they were not afraid to die and go to God (Roberts 1954:15-33).
The entire Anglican Church of Kenya needs to gather in this Cathedral. Perhaps here the martyrs voices will be clearer that we belong to the triumphant Lamb. For: “we have died together, we will rise together, we will rise together”.