Mekatilili Wa Menza

Born in Mutara wa Tsatsu Ganze village in Kilifi County, 'Mekatilili Wa Menza or Makatilili was a Kenyan independence activist who led the Giriama people against the colonial administration of Kenya between 1912 and 1915. Her birth name was Mnyazi wa Menza. She became Mekatilili after she got married and gave birth to a son Katilili, hence her name meant “mother of Katilili’.

MAZU THE GAME

deangichuki

10/3/20212 min read

tilt shift photography of people

Born in Mutara wa Tsatsu Ganze village in Kilifi County, 'Mekatilili Wa Menza or Makatilili was a Kenyan independence activist who led the Giriama people against the colonial administration of Kenya between 1912 and 1915. Her birth name was Mnyazi wa Menza. She became Mekatilili after she got married and gave birth to a son Katilili, hence her name meant “mother of Katilili’.

She had four brothers, Nzai, Hare, Kithi and Mwarandu, and one sister. One of her brothers, Kithi was captured by Arab Slave Traders in a market in Kilifi which reminded the prophecy of Mepoho (diviner of repute of the Giriama people) about the coming of the strange people who had hair like sisal fibres. The coming of these strangers would mean the erosion of the Giriama cultural traditions. The prophecy came true when the Imperial British East African Company (IBEA) arrived at the Coast and started plundering local resources and tried to subjugate the people.

The Imperial British East African Company tried to remove Mekatilili’s people from the land near the Sabaki river and introduced a ‘hut tax” on them.

Mekatilili started rallying her people to resist the Brirish rule using the sacred Kifudu (Giriama funeral dance) asking them to swear oaths to resist the British rule. She is also believed to have mysterious powers that came from the Kaya (Giriama Shrines). This happened when she was in her 70s.

One day, a British administrator held a meeting at Chakama Kwa Hawe Wanhe to try and recruit the Giriama youth to join the British army and fight in the First World War. But Mekatilili was having none of it. With a hen and her chicks in hand, she attended the meeting and challenged the Administrator to snatch one of the chicks. The angry mother hen pecked at the Administrators hand, humiliating him in public. Mekatilili looked at him and said “this is what you will get if you try to take one of our sons.”

As a result of the event, Mekatilili together with her son-in-law Wanje wa Mwadorikola were arrested and sent to Kisii in Western Kenya and locked in prison. On 14th January 1914 they walked free from prison and walked for more than seven hundred kilometers back to Kilifi on the Kenyan Coast.

She continued to lead the resistance thereafter which led to the British shooting at the Giriama people, burning their houses and bombing the sacred Kaya in a bid to kill it. They burned the bodies of the murdered Giriama in the same fire as sheep. Mekatilili was captured again on 16th August 1914 and sent to Kismayu in Somalia. She escaped again and walked back to Kilifi. She died in the 1920s of natural causes.

I guess one could say this was the much needed origin story for Wonder Woman. The actual Hero. No shade implied, it’s so fascinating how history carried her name and story years later despite there no being no written records at the time.