History as Mama Ngina shaves off Mau Mau heroine Field Marshall Muthoni Kirima dreadlocks
History as Mama Ngina shaves Mau Mau heroine Field Marshall Muthoni Kirima dreadlocks
By Justus Karanja
History was made on Saturday, April 2 when Kenya's Founding First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta shaved off the dreadlocks of Field Marshall Muthoni Wa Kirima.
Muthoni (pictured) was the only Mau Mau fighter to be given the title of a Field Marshall.
She was one of the most senior commanders among Dedan Kimathi, Baimungi Marete and Musa Mwariama of the Mau Mau.
Dedan Kimathi named her 'Weaver Bird' because of her ability to weave brilliant strategies in the struggle for Kenya’s independence.ying to
During the war, Field Marshall Muthoni Wa Kirima spent 11 years in the forest and was severely wounded on two occasions.
On one, she and seven other fighters were attacked.
She was able to crawl to safety with a gunshot wound in her shoulder but the rest of the fighters were brutally killed.
Due to the extreme conditions she was living in and in danger of wild animals not to mention battling the colonialists, she suffered two miscarriages which left her unable to have children.
She was the only woman to come out of the forest alive.
On December 12, 1963 President Jomo Kenyatta sent a car to pick up Mau Mau fighters from the forest to take part in a ceremony where freedom fighters would lay down their weapons.
She refused, not convinced the war was over, and demanded instead to first see the Kenyan flag.
She moved out of the forest later on in 1963. Her husband, General Mutungi, died two years later.
In 1990, she served as a nominated councillor in Nyeri County Council.
In 1998, President Daniel arap Moi awarded her a medal for distinguished service, and in 2014, President Uhuru Kenyatta awarded her the Head of State Commendation although its always argued if the commendations were enough appreciation for the work she did.
In a narrative where African women are categorised as intellectually weak and easily manipulated, Muthoni’s struggle can also be interpreted as the struggle for women’s freedom.
Muthoni had grown her dreadlocks since independence.
Muthoni was born in Central Kenya in 1931 and was a first-hand witness to the colonial injustices committed against Africans.
She joined the fight at 20 as a spy like other women whose participation was limited to carriers of information and supplies.
She challenged this role by fearlessly executing raids against colonial farms that marked her out to Mau Mau’s revered leader Dedan Kimathi, who made her the only female leader.
During the war, dreadlocks was the hairstyle associated with the Mau Mau.
While fighting in the forest, soldiers barely had time to properly groom their hair causing it to lock.
The negative stigma behind the hairstyle in Kenya is attributed to the British’s slandering campaign against the Mau Mau as “terrorists, savages, and animals”.
The style evolved thereafter from being protective to a symbol of revolt against the colonial government by Kenyans and other Black anti-colonial and imperial movements around the world.
At her request, Field Marshal Muthoni's decades'-old dreadlocks were cut off by Mama Ngina, in the presence of the Kikuyu Council of Elders, as a celebration of their initial Mau Mau struggle and a symbolic acceptance of the new struggle to unite the country and ensure peace reigns regardless of the political situation.