Growing up I remember a time when I used to tie a towel around my neck and imagine I was a super hero. Usually, I’d pretend to be Batman or Wolverine or whichever hyper masculine character that was on Tv back then. So when a friend told me to check out a photo series on Mekatilili wa Menza, by Dapel Kureng and Rich Allela, I was very excited. My excitement stemmed from the lack of black heroines in mainstream media and in history so it was a treat to see an female African warrior being celebrated.
For those who may not know, Mekatilili was a Kenyan heroine in the 19th Century who led the Giriama community in actively resisting British colonial rule. Her exploits as a warrior and leader are many, but the one that particularly stood out for me was the Giriama uprising of 1914 which she spearheaded, that led to the British removing land restrictions and lightening labor demands among the Giriama.
What I loved about this photo series and others that focus on women by the likes of others such as Osborne Macharia, is that they help open my eyes to women whom are hardly celebrated yet they played and continue to play a pivotal role in history. They remove the idea that heroism and bravery are ‘male’ traits and empower me to not limit myself because Mekatilili jumped through hoops and sacrificed for her people to book her place in history among the greats.
The women in ‘Mekatilili wa Kenya’ photo series have been photographed beautifully and they appear as strong as the character they portray. They make me hopeful that in the future, my 10 year old daughter will tie a towel around her neck and visualize herself as Mekatilili wa Menza.
Check out the photo series ‘Mekatilili of Kenya’.