Mekatilili Wa Menza of Kenya by Mfon Abigail for 24Naija F rom the bowels of Kenya, a prophesy about British oppression had gone ahead. What also followed was that the savior would be a woman. No one guessed that it would be Mnyazi wa Menza, an only girl among 5 children, born to poor parents in Mutsara wa Tsatsu, a village of the Giriama, sometime between 1840 and 1860. The little girl had no idea as well until she became an eye-witness to the capture of one of her brothers by the Arabs in the market place. The rage and dissatisfaction was only fueled when the British colonial masters arrived and marched right on to threaten the values of the Giriama people, pushing them to the verge of extinction. The culture, norms and values of her people were to be replaced with British policies and ordinances. But this was unacceptable to the young woman whom the birth of her son katilili had christened Mekatilili (Mother of Katilili). It didn’t matter who stood as the tower against her, she was ready to fight and tear out her people from the jaws of the British colonial lions. Despite the fact that numerous ideologies from time immemorial have oppressed, caged, trodden, abused and discriminated against the woman and her core, gender inequality has also provoked her to be referred to as one who is to be seen and not heard and to crown it all, cultural moves, beliefs and practices in the world at large and in Africa particularly, have justified this unnatural behavior. Thankfully, women like Mekatilili of Kenya have been bold enough to step forward, rising beyond the embargo placed on them by society to express their inner strength and worth. The fact that she was a young widow without a man to stand up for and protect her should have deterred her but she harnessed and embraced it, preferring to see it as a breath of freedom to travel and speak for the emancipation of her people. She was a woman of many qualities and these became her tools. Her exceptional prowess in both oratory and the kifudu dance which was a funeral dance garnered many admirers who turned followers. When the need arose she conscripted them to become her army of fighters against the brutal colonial masters. Many of them were women but their gender Rich Allela(Kenya) -https://www.instagram.com/rich_allela/ Dapel Kureng(Nigeria) -https://www.instagram.com/kurengworkx/ 36 africanphotomagazine ISSUE 7 NOVEMBER 2017 37
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