Where has the giant lioness in Dubai come from? Metal sculpture spotted at Sunset Mall

The artwork honours an African hero who saved thousands of lives

Mbaye, the 120-tonne lioness at the entrance of Sunset Mall in Dubai. Photo: Inox Arabia
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Sunset Mall has – some might say – a fur-midable new mascot: Mbaye the lioness, made of stainless steel and temporarily guarding its entrance in Dubai’s Jumeirah district.

While currently only the sculpture's head can be seen, once completed it will weigh 120 tonnes and reach 13 metres in height. It was designed and made in Dubai after a seven-year design and manufacturing process.

The name honours Captain Mbaye Diagne, a Senegalese UN peacekeeping soldier who was stationed in Rwanda during the country’s genocide in 1994. While also completing UN missions, Diagne struck out on his own to save members of the Tutsi ethnic minority.

He often hid people in his car, ferrying them to safety, and also shielded members of the Hutu majority. Flouting the UN’s rules of engagement at times, his independent actions are said to have saved as many as 1,000 lives.

At the age of 36, he was killed by a mortar shell launched by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, while stopped at an army checkpoint. It was only 12 days before he was due to return to Senegal.

“We are delighted and honoured to unveil the ongoing sculpting of Mbaye the Lioness – a work of art that epitomises the love and care that Captain Mbaye Diagne showed to thousands of innocent people that were caught up in the tribal war,” says Lawton Loraine, the owner of Inox Arabia and creator of the project.

“The objective of this unique art showcase is to inspire people not only in the UAE, but all over the world to care for others regardless of where they come from.”

The sculpture was made in stainless steel from Inox Arabia, which operates out of Al Quoz, and its green eyes were made in jade from Brazil. Its feet, which currently sit inside the mall, were carved in marble imported from Carrara in Italy.

The sculpture will also incorporate 210 different native flowers from all over the world, in a symbol of celebration of diversity. Its finished parts will be on view for 60 days at Sunset Mall, near Kite Beach.

The UAE and Rwanda have strong relations, with the UAE sending medical aid and supplies on three occasions to the landlocked African country during the Covid-19 crisis.

Updated: August 24, 2021, 12:35 PM