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November 13, 2018

Mijikenda elders mark Mekatilili anniversary

Mijikenda Kaya elders from Malindi District cultural Association walk along Malindi streets to mark the 100th anniversary of Mekatilili Menza who led the Giriama in rebellion against the British rule. Photo Alphonce Gari.
Mijikenda Kaya elders from Malindi District cultural Association walk along Malindi streets to mark the 100th anniversary of Mekatilili Menza who led the Giriama in rebellion against the British rule. Photo Alphonce Gari.

Mijikenda Kaya Elders and Kilifi county government officials yesterday marked 100th anniversary of Giriama Heroine Mekatilili Menza in Malindi town. Dressed in Mijikenda traditional clothes, hundreds of traditional elders marched along the Malindi streets to commemorate Mekatilili.

The heroine led the rebellion against the British colonialists in 1913. During the British resistance in the war dubbed Kondo ya chembe (Giriama Uprising ) Mekatilili rejected Malindi administrative officer Aurthur Champion’s orders.

To prove her resistance the heroine slapped the colonial and declared war against the rulers which lead to her arrest twice together with her lover Wanje Wa Mwadori Kola.

They were detained in Kisii and Kismayu in two different occasions and managed to escape. Her rebellion was against recruitment of porters to take part in the First world war and attempts by the British to hire laborers to help in building their economies.

Now 100 years since Mekatilili’s revolt the Mijikenda community turned out to show their respect of the heroine who was described as a medicine woman, charismatic speaker who commanded respect amongst the Giriama.

The climax of the festival will be in Bungale, at the gravesite of Mekatilili who died in 1925 at the age of 70. Kilifi deputy governor Kennedy Kamto, Malindi subcounty manager Daniel Chome, Malindi district cultural association secretary and senior lawyers Joseph Mwarandu with other players went to Mekatilili gardens (formerly Uhuru gardens) and held prayers in front of her statue.

Hundreds of locals and tourists turned up to see Mekatilili's statue. Professors from University of  Nairobi, Moi University and Kenyatta University are expected to hold talks with the elders in Kilifi town today on the historical importance of the heroine.

Other visitors present from Kilifi, Mombasa and Nairobi got an opportunity to learn about the culture of the Mijikenda community. Mwarandu described this year’s festival as key to remember the prophesies of both Mekatilili and Chinua Achebe through his book things fall apart.

He said there would also be selection of the third Mekatilili members who would be chosen in Bungale. The candidate he said would be a person with similar characteristics of the heroine.

“This event is important to Kilifi county, it has brought together all nine Mijikenda communities from their kayas and taken them back to their traditional roots,’’ he said.

The Deputy Governor said their aim was to facilitate the event more each year to make it bigger so as to promote cultural tourism. Kamto said they would use culture to promote tourism in the county and make Kilifi as an example of other counties.

Malindi Subcounty manager said the festival shall help sell the industry and forge development. The leaders and elders were later treated with traditional dances and exhibitions at the Alaskan grounds which was attended by hundreds of people.

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