All About Kenya’s Mau Mau Freedom Fighter Whose Legendary Hair Was Cut After 70 Years
In Kenya, the Mau Mau were a major nationalist revolutionary movement that originally sought to reclaim land that British settlers had taken from them in the 1950s. The group would ultimately contribute to Kenya’s independence. Many studies have been conducted on the Mau Mau movement, however, women’s leadership in the movement has often been overlooked.
When people talk about the Mau Mau freedom fighters who sacrificed a lot for their country, they usually only talk about Mzee Kenyatta and Dedan Kimathi. They don’t recognize freedom fighters like Muthoni wa Kirima who risked everything to save their country. Kirima was the only female Mau Mau Field Marshal. She earned the title after spending seven years in the forest during Kenya’s independence struggle.
She started her fight for freedom as a spy, just like the other women. They were responsible for providing supplies and intelligence to Mau Mau fighters. This fight was not without personal sacrifices. Kirima was not only wounded twice in battle, but she also suffered a miscarriage which prevented her from having children. Nevertheless, she never regretted joining the Mau Mau.
Born in Kenya’s Central Province, in the midst of colonialism in 1931, she saw how her fellow Africans endured suffering from injustice. Without any formal education, Kirima, at the age of 20, had become a spy for the Mau Mau fighters who had camped in the forest in 1952. She joined the Mau Mau freedom struggle with her husband General Mutungi and entered the forests of Mount Kenya in the 1960s to fight. Her husband will die two years after the struggle for freedom.
During the fight for freedom in the forests, Kirima wanted to do more than spy and bring food to the fighters. She wanted to fight so she spoke with Marshal Dedan Kimathi to allow her to enter the forest as a fighter and soldier. Kimathi listened and allowed her to fight. She proved to be a valiant soldier, so she was promoted to field marshal, becoming the only woman to achieve this position.
While fighting for the freedom of the forest, Kirima also led the hunt for elephants and so when she and others came out of the forest after independence, she convinced the authorities to grant her a license for the elephant trade. the ivory, saying she knew where the elephant tusks had been. buried. But reports say his license to collect and sell “wild” ivory ended in 1976 when authorities banned the ivory trade.
Kirima has been fighting for a better life ever since. The freedom fighter has expressed her disappointment with Kenya’s post-colonial governments and has vowed never to cut her dreadlocks until she sees the benefits of independence. So many reacted in shock on Saturday when the 92-year-old freedom fighter shaved off her six-foot-long dreadlocks at a ceremony attended by former first lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta, who was her friend when she was fighting in the forest.
“Dreadlocks were the hairstyle associated with the Mau Mau when they fought in the forest because they barely had time to comb their hair properly, which caused them to lock themselves,” said the former first lady, who shaved the Kirima’s hair.
Most Mau Mau freedom fighters cut their hair immediately after emerging from the forest after Kenya’s independence. Historians have said that most fighters cut their hair to signify freedom, saying they finally got what they wanted by defeating the colonizers. But Kirima decided to keep his dreadlocks as proof of his role in the struggle for independence. She also kept them until her freedom fighter wishes were fulfilled, as previously stated.
At the shave ceremony on Saturday, she said she was cutting her hair because she had now realized what she had fought for. She did not give details, Kenyan news outlet Nation reported.
“I agreed today to shave my hair. It means I am glad that our country finally had freedom. Generations are now free and what we fought for in the forest has finally been achieved” , Kirima said, according to Kenyan news outlet K24 TV.
Some Kenyans are still disappointed that the hair was shaved off, with others calling it a “political stunt”, according to the BBC. Kirima’s hair has since been wrapped in the Kenyan flag and is to be kept in a museum to signify her story, the former first lady has said.