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Stunning New Images Celebrate Kenyan Female Icon who Stood up to Colonialists, Mekatilili wa Menza

Posted On : January 5, 2018

Oscar Alochi


CNN How do we immortalize people who have impacted the world and made it better in a significant way?

Two photographers, Rich Allela and Kureng Dapel, show us how in a series of images in a project titled “African Queens.”

They recreated the life of a female Kenyan icon Mnyazi wa Menza, who was popularly known among her people as Mekatilili wa Menza.

Mekatilili is celebrated in Kenya for challenging oppressive colonial policies in the early 1900s.

She was fearless and was even said to have slapped one of the British colonial masters in a heated argument in August 1913, according to The Star, a local newspaper in Kenya.

Commenting on the project, Allela said it “represents the strength of womanhood, and inspires the African woman to rise above the inequality and discrimination faced every day.”

Story highlights
Photographers Rich Allela and Kureng Dapel celebrate female African icons in a bold photography project themed “African Queens”
In this collection, they re-imagine fearless Kenyan woman Mnyazi wa Menza (Mekatilili) who challenged colonialism in Kenya
Here are some of our favorite images from the collection.

Mnyazi wa Menza a.k.a Mekatilili was a strong woman known for her fierceness and resistance of colonial rule in Kenya. This photography project represents her life in the Giriama region of Kenya where she lived from the1840s to 1924, according to local sources.

In this reimagination, a fearless Mekatilili is pictured readying for battle, defying the age-long patriarchal norms in Kenyan (and generally, African) societies. Women were not known to be headstrong during that time, but Mekatilili could not be silent about the colonial oppression in her community. While celebrating her achievements, Kenyan newspaper, Daily Nation, described her as the “mad woman who rattled the British.”

Infuriated by the exploitative practices of forced labour and over-taxation by colonial masters in the Giriama community, Mekatilili challenged colonial rule. It is documented that she once slapped a colonial master during a heated exchange over demands made by him from her community. She stood strongly for traditional religious practices and preservation of native customs and traditions, says Kenya’s The Standard.

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Oscar Alochi


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