Tribute to AU emblem designer John Mudasia Zome

The man behind the AU logo John Mudasia Zome, was laid to rest at his home in Tongaren, Bungoma County, Kenya on October 7. Mudasia who died September 26 at the age of 71, designed the AU logo more than four decades ago and has been part of the AU for the longest time and as such the Kenyan born artist, who is least known throughout the continent, has always remained at the center of the organization.

The little known artist became a hero to many among his community after his logo design was adopted as the official emblem of the African organization. Mudasia made his way to Addis Ababa Ethiopia to receive his $7000 reward and met the legendary Haile Selassie together with some African leaders whom he had the chance to interact with as he explained to them the thinking behind the design, a creation that has now outlasted the OAU and now the official logo of the AU. In 2010 however, the AU changed the original flag which had Mudasia’s logo and adopted a new one, without the logo. The current flag designs are from Ethiopian born artist Yadesa Bojia.  

Mudasi attended Ikobero intermediate school, then Itegero and Busali Intermediate School. He left school in 1967 and in 1968, he would join Korea publishers (commercial and industry designers) due to his artistic inclinations. It was during his stint at the company that he heard that the Organisation for Africa Unity (OAU), now African Union (AU) had placed an advertised for submission of logo art designs themed for the OAU. He then would ask around about the competition and the OAU. After getting enough information on the competition, Mudasia would design what is now a mark of African pride, the AU logo. 

On his return to Kenya, Mudasia found his services in great demand, he proceeded to work for the likes of Grand Advertising Agency (1970-1972), Nation Newspaper as a graphic designer (1973-1976), Weekly Review (1976-1979), Kenya Times (1979-1980) and Regal Press (1981-1985). From 1985, he gave up being someone’s employer and opted for the life of a freelancer, the path he kept on until 1990.

Despite being at the heart of the regional organization’s design, Mudasia has relatively remained incognito. Few know of his accomplishments as an artist but still, he has for over 46 years been at the center of OAU/AU. His art has seen OAU through the periods of colonial turmoil, independence to those recovery years that have always been marked by civil wars, coups, counter coups, floods, drought and deprivation. Although critics have always looked at OAU/AU as a toothless dog, with reference to occurrences such as the Rwanda genocide (1994), and currently the South Sudan crisis, the logo has always shown the organization’s purpose and forever been a joy of delight to its creator. In 2010 the AU flag was changed and the logo dropped but still use as the official emblem.

Afroway pays tribute to this African art talent who managed to touch the hearts of those in the continent. 

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