Every society has its hero. An individual who has exhibited a certain quality which the society recognizes as being exemplary and of great benefit to its preservation. In remembrance of such a hero or heroine, society often dedicate certain honor to preserve their legacy, so that future generations can be inspired. Mekatilili Wa Menza festival is one of such honorary recognitions.
Other honors can include a statue monument, or the renaming of an important building, national edifice or major street after the hero. Sometimes, their image may adorn the national currency, or have a day dedicated to their remembrance.
Following the realization among key players that foreign influence was fast eroding their cultural values, the Malindi District Cultural Association (MADCA) was established on August 3, 2003, and it was saddled with the responsibility of reviving culture and cultural activities among the Mijikenda Communty. A year on, the Mekatilili Wa Menza Festival was born, a festival that celebrates culture and its preservation.
Mekatilili: The Woman Who Dared the Brits
Mekatilili Wa Menza was a Giriama woman who mobilized her people to resist the British oppression in the colonial days. She was a fearless and charismatic leader who rallied the Girama people together with her oratory power and mobilized them to take sacred oaths to defend the sovereignty of their society. (For more on her, see City Icon for the week).
Festival and Pilgrimage
Hosted usually in early or mid-August annually in the Kilifi County which was created in 2010, following the merging of Kilifi and Malindi Districts, Mekatilili Wa Menza Festival is an energetic display of local culture over a 4-day period.
Starting from the headquarters of MADCA, a colorful procession through the streets of Malindi kicks off Day 1 which culminates in a cultural night at the beach of the Marine National Park. Strictly a fun affair, the night is lit up with songs, drumming, and traditional dances.
Day 2 is the official opening day and it is presided over by a top government official. Last year, had the Deputy-Governor presiding, while several important guests were also present. The festivities continue with food exhibition and other fun events joining the list of activities. As soon as the special guest gives his speech, the crowd relocates to the Magarini Cultural Centre where it will stay all night celebrating.
On the 3rd day, the venue shifts to Bungale where Mekatilili is buried. This time the festivities are laced with prayers and other rituals. There is also food to eat with a free flow of Mnazi (palm wine) for all who desires, while drumming, singing and dancing and other exciting events carry on.
Day 4 marks the culmination of the festival and features government officials and other top dignitaries as guests. Last year had the Governor in as the chief guest. Mekatilili Wa Menza Cultural Festival is a rich showcase of culture and it is open to tourists and visitors to attend and join in the fun and festivities. For this year, the festival will take place from August 9.
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‘Niyi David explores the beautiful and enthralling continent of Africa with Afro Tourism, capturing colorful memories of places, cultures and events in words and images.