Mekatilili wa Menza was a Kenyan female freedom fighter who led the Giriama resistance against the British colonial power in Coastal Kenya in early 20th century. On Sunday Google displayed a Doodle on their search engine depicting the famous female resistance leader from Kenya which led to a mass sense of patriotism and appreciation among the Kenyan people.
While on the Google Search engine, you’d see a depiction of Mekatilili wa Menza performing what is called “kifudu”, a traditional dance that calls many to action.
Google began honouring people, events, anniversaries and holidays with Doodles designed by one of its engineers in 1999.
So far Google has honoured an array of African personalities throughout the years such as Wangari Maathai, a Nobel Peace Prize winner from Kenya, award-winning author Margaret Ogola from Kenya, South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba and Stephen Keshi, former captain and coach of the Super Eagles, Nigeria’s national team.
Wanjira Kinyua, the Nairobi-based artist behind the Mekatilili wa Menza Google Doodle wanted people to be inspired by Mekatilili and celebrate other women who fought for independence from the colonial powers.
“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,” said Kinyua in a statement released by Google.
Mekatilili wa Menza was born in a small village called Matsara wa Tsatsu in Kilifi County, Kenya in the 1840s and was initially named Mnyazi wa Menza. Her name was dramatically changed to Mekatilili, meaning “mother of Katilili”.
After being widowed and losing her son to the British Empire she began mobilising a resistance against the British rule which was jeopardising the Giriama freedom and tradition. Mekatilili travelled for long distances on foot from village to village and performing the “kifudu” dance and attracting massive attention and convincing people to fight for their sovereignty. This led to many uprisings between 1913 and 1914, and despite her multiple arrests and imprisonments her resistance spirit did not wither until the British gave up on controlling that occupied territory. Mekatilili wa Menza later died in the 1900s of natural causes.
Mekatilili’s most noted drama is when a British official had once showed up at her homestead after her son was reported to be dead, there was a hen with her chicks nearby and Mekatilili asked the British officer to catch one of the little chicks, the officer obeyed and got hold of one chick and immediately the mother hen attacked the officer propelling him to shoot it down. Meanwhile Mekatlili gave the officer a tight slap on the face and claimed she feels the same way as the mother hen when the baby chicken was taken from her.
Today many patriots come together in the month of August to celebrate the Mekatilili wa Menza Festival in Kilifi County, Kenya, as the resilience legacy of Mekatilili lives on.