Mekatilili Addressing a Baraza
This painting depicts MeKatilili wa Menza addressing a baraza (gathering) in her Giriama community. The costume and countryside are authentic – I spent time with Giriama elders in the bundu (rural district), travelled in the fertile green coastal strip and imagined the Tana River. Seated on the right of MeKatilili is Wanje wa Mradikola with the sacred drum. In the lower left corner are two medicine women who are preparing to administer an oath; on the right-hand side are a group of young men fabricating weapons of war; above that we see the men attacking the African police who are in the colonial service and their white masters making good their escape. At MeKatilili’s feet are the offerings that her Giriama compatriots have brought for the struggle.
Scholars have informed us that MeKatilili would walk from the Tana to near Mombasa urging her people not to adopt Western dress/customs, and encouraging them to resist the colonialists. She and Wanje were arrested by the colonial authority and imprisoned in a prison in Kisii. They were able to escape and trek all the way back to Giriama land, MeKatilili is buried just north of Malindi and her grave is now a venerated site.