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HomeTop StoriesCelebrating Giriama Wonder Woman: Annual Mekatilili Menza festival starts in Malindi

Celebrating Giriama Wonder Woman: Annual Mekatilili Menza festival starts in Malindi

In Summary

  • Both men and women were dressed in full traditional regalia.
  • Kaya elders marched in Malindi Town sensitizing people on COVID-19 protocols.

It was a low key event as the annual Mekatilili Menza Festival to commemorate the heroine who led Mijikenda community in fighting British colonialists kicks off in Malindi.

Thanks to COVID-19 pandemic, the organisers- Malindi District Cultural Association (MADCA) said this year they will not go to Shakahola where Mekatilili attacked British colonialist Arthur Champion as is the norm.

Instead, Kaya elders began the festival by conducting special prayers before Mekatilili’s statue at Uhuru Gardens in Malindi town.

Thereafter, they marched in town, distributing face masks, sensitising people on importance of strictly adhering to COVID-19 protocols and coexisting peacefully. Both men and women were dressed in traditional regalia.

Malindi District Cultural Association dancers at the Uhuru Gardens in Malindi town as the Mekatilili Menza Festival starts. PHOTO/COURTESY.

MADCA Secretary-General Joseph Karisa Mwarandu noted that unlike previous years, this year’s celebrations attracted a low number of people due to COVID-19 pandemic.

“We also want to let people know that there is traditional cure which people can use as a cure for the virus, the traditional process uses steam from hot water and herbs from medicinal trees,” Mwarandu said.

He further advised locals that steaming must be done in the morning and evening. The traditional herbs were previously used to treat Kivuti which he claims is similar to COVID-19.

The World Health Organisation has, however, not approved steaming as a cure for COVID-19.

Mwarandu expressed disappointment in the killings of elderly people in Kilifi County on allegations of being witches, urging perpetrators to stop the inhuman act.

Acknowledging youth have been a majority of those who died in political-related violence, the MADCA Sec-Gen called upon leaders to desist from hate speech. This, at a time when 2022 election campaigns have begun.

Following the 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, Mwarandu said Kenyans expected the country to move past political chaos. He, however, expresses concerns that that is not the case.

Mekatilili’s permanent statue

Kazungu Hawerisa, a Kaya elder said the festival was a reminder of Mekatilili’s bravery in leading the fight against British colonialists. It was only fair, Hawerisa says, that government puts up a permanent statue of the heroine in Kilifi and Nairobi.

The current Mekatilili statue, according to him, is small and made of wood yet it is supposed to be metallic.

“A good example is when you enter Machakos the Kamba put a statue of their freedom fighter in his honor and we expected Kilifi County government would do the same in honor of Mekatilili and place one big statute at the entry of Kilifi to show she is the first person to defend the country from the colonialists,” he said.

Stanley Kiraga, Founder and Chairman of MADCA, urged the community to embrace the Mekatilili Menza festival because it is one way of preserving culture and ensure its continuity.

Kiraga said he has lost several relatives to COVID-19 and even contacted the virus at one point. He encouraged locals to observe laid-out protocols as the pandemic is deadly.

Born in the 1840s as Mnyazi wa Menza in Mutara wa Tsatsu village in Ganze, Mekatilili was one of Kenya’s earliest freedom fighters. She became Mekatilili after getting married and giving birth to a son Katilili, hence her name- ‘Mother of Katilili’.

Folklores say one of her four brothers, Kithi was captured by Arabs slave traders in a market in Kilifi. “It was then she remembered Mepoho’s prophecy about the coming of the strange people who had hair like sisal fibres.”

Mekatilili was in her 70s when she started to lead her people in resisting the British. She rallied her community to take oaths and resist British rule using the sacred Kifudu Giriama funeral dance.


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