The annual Mekatilili wa Menza cultural festival was marked weekend with calls to leaders to properly honour heroes and heroines who played a major role in Kenya’s independence struggle.
The Mijikenda Kaya elders from the Malindi District Cultural Association (MADCA) said it was unfortunate that heroes and heroines such as the legendary leader of the Giriama Uprising were yet to be honoured fully by the government.
The elders congregated at Mekatilili’s commemoration shrine in Shakahola area of Magarini constituency to honour the woman believed to have ignited the agitation for freedom from colonial rule.
They offered prayers and led the association members in honoring the 19th century heroine through traditional dances, prayers and offering of libations at the site where Metatilili is said to have slapped a British District Commissioner, Arthur Champion.
This is said to have ignited what is known among the Giriama as Kondo ya Chembe (Champion’s war) in August 1913, as the heroine travelled from village to village rallying the Giriama to resist colonial rule.
The MADCA Secretary General (SG), Joseph Karisa Mwarandu lamented that many freedom fighters had not been properly recognized and honoured, saying there was need to build commemoration pillars and museums to preserve history for future generations.
“We urge the government to build a museum cum cultural centre in this place where the history of our country will be preserved for posterity,” he said, calling for the recognition of all freedom fighters.
Mwarandu said to date the government and even local leaders from the Coast have done very little to give the celebrated heroine the honour she deserves. This year’s Mekatilili festival was brief due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The SG called on the Kilifi County Government to assist the association to secure the land on which a pillar was erected in honour of the heroine so that a museum cum cultural centre can be built on the property.
”Our aim is to set up a pillar in memory of Mekatilili Menza and a centre for Mijikenda culture of the Coast,” he said.
The MADCA Chairman, Emmanuel Munyaya said Mekatilili fought for good leadership after the colonial crushed the Kaya system of governance but surprisingly leaders have not recognized her efforts to date.
Munyaya noted that only last week Google Kenya recognized the heroine by using her image in its search engine in recognition of her contribution, but lamented that local leaders have not yet recognized her.
”Up to now the area where celebrations are being held is in a pathetic state. I would like to urge our leaders in Kenya to know that the offices they hold now were made possible by efforts of Mekatilili Menza and other heroes,” he said.
The Mijikenda elders first paid respect to the heroine at the statue of Mekatilili at Uhuru Gardens Malindi before going to Shakahola for the climax of the fete.
At Shakahola, women conducted rituals and danced the Kifudu song which was played by Mekatilili before the Gohu or Mijikenda Elderly men of a secret society responsible for oaths and medicine men also did their rituals and prayers were later conducted.
By Emmanuel Masha