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Google honours legendary Kenyan freedom fighter Mekatilili wa Menza


Search engine giant Google has published a special doodle on its homepage to honour and celebrate Mekatilili wa Menza, a legendary Kenyan freedom fighter and activist.

Mekatilili is known for inspiring the Giriama people to resist colonial rule in the early 20th century.

Today on the Kenyan coast, the resilient legacy of Menza is commemorated during the festivities of the traditional Malindi Cultural Festival, an annual celebration of local history and pride.

This year the event however may not take place because of the Coronavirus pandemic that has limited social gatherings as a way to curb the spread of the virus.

Mekatilili becomes the fourth Kenyan to appear on doodle after doctor and celebrated author Margaret Ogola, renowned environmentalist and Nobel Laureate Wangari Mathai and the late Kimani Maruge who in 2004 at 84 years became the oldest person to enrol for primary school education.

Google’s Head of Communications and Public Affairs, Ms Dorothy Ooko remembered Mekatilili wa Menza’s passion for freedom.

RESISTANCE

“She had a heart that was full of passion. Passion for freedom. Freedom against the oppressors of her people. We remember that her resistance quest led to her imprisonment in a far land in Western Kenya and that she had to walk 965 kilometres to get back to her land after escaping from the prison,” Ooko noted

Mnyazi wa Menza (Mekatilili) was born in the Giriama village of Matsara wa Tsatsu in coastal Kenya during the mid-19th century.

By the early 20th century, British colonial rule had threatened the sovereignty and freedom of the Giriama people with forced labour and taxation. At a time when women’s power was limited within her society, Menza was compelled to organise her people against colonial control.

Menza travelled from village to village spreading messages of opposition, performing the ecstatic native dance of kifudu to draw large crowds and then unleashing her powerful oratory skills to garner support.

UPRISINGS

Her leadership contributed to uprisings by the Giriama against the British in 1913 and 1914, and despite her multiple arrests and imprisonments, her campaign of resistance proved successful.

The British ultimately relaxed control of the region, effectively granting the demands for which Menza and the Giriama had tirelessly fought.

She is also remembered for the Mepoho’s prophecy which was about the coming of strange people who had hair like sisal fibres and moved in flying vessels as well as those moving on the water and on land.

She believed that the coming of these strangers would begin the erosion of the Giriama cultural traditions.

Today’s Doodle artwork features a depiction of Menza leading the energetic kifudu dance that called so many to action.