Celebrating Mekatilili wa Menza: Google fetes Kenyan freedom fighter with doodle

Celebrating Mekatilili wa Menza: Google fetes Kenyan freedom fighter with doodle

Google is celebrating Mekatilili wa Menza, with a doodle of the Kenyan freedom fighter made visible on its search engine platform on Sunday.

Known for inspiring the Giriama people to resist colonial rule, circa 1900, Mekatilili wa Menza is revered as one of the nation’s first Mau Mau fighters.

“The recognition of Mekatilili Menza by Google goes along way in reinforcing what we believe in as Kenya National Heroes Council and a country. We believe our Heroes deserve better. They have played their part in nation building. We must affirm them at all times so that we can inculcate the culture of Heroism; the culture of service.

“We shall ensure more of our female heroines are unearthed, highlighted and feted. Other than giving birth to many celebrated our women were at the fore front of our liberation, our struggles and our future remains solely in their hands. That is the spirit of the Kenya National Heroes Act,2014 and what we stand for as a Council,” said Amb. Yvonne Khamati-Yahaya, the CEO of the Kenya National Heroes Council.

Mekatilili wa Menza led the Giriama people in the early 20th century and is commemorated during the festivities of the traditional Malindi Cultural Festival, an annual celebration of local history and pride.

She was born in Matsara wa Tsatsu 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 labor and taxation. At a time when women’s power was limited within her society, Menza was compelled to organize her people against colonial control.

Menza traveled 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.

The Google Doodle artwork features a depiction of Menza leading the energetic kifudu dance that called so many to action.

Menza’s 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 fought tirelessly for.

The artist behind the Google doodle is Wanjira Kinyua who is based in Nairobi. Below is an excerpt of an interview with the artist:

Wanjira Kinyua
Kelly Wanjira Kinyua. PHOTO | COURTESY | wanjirakinyua.tumblr.com


Q: Why was this topic meaningful to you personally?

A: One of the things Mekatilili fought for was the erasure of the Giriama culture. I have been exploring our pre-colonial cultures, particularly adornments, and documenting some of it in my latest work, and I got a lot of information from the research I did on this project.

Q: What were your first thoughts when you were approached about the project?

A: Excited! Google Doodles are something I have always wanted to do. It became challenging as I had to make an illustration of Mekatilili without any reference, but the team guided me well in visualizing the artwork better.

Q: Did you draw inspiration from anything in particular for this Doodle?

A: The main sources of inspiration were photographs, videos and research papers that gave me insight on the way of life of the Giriama tribe and also stories of Mekatilili wa Menza.

Q: What message do you hope people take away from your Doodle?

A: I hope this Doodle will help people remember Mekatilili wa Menza’s legacy and emulate her courageous spirit, and also to celebrate women who fought for independence in Kenya.

This article was first published here