Emergency Stories

Since we first began MBC in January 2018, privileging and centralising the experiences of men, women and children who lived through the Mau Mau Emergency, and bearing witness to their experiences, has been a central part of our approach. Over the months, our team has therefore been visiting veterans of the Mau Mau Emergency and British detention camps, listening to and recording their stories.

We believe that by sharing more of these stories, we will contribute to a richer and more rounded history; one that prioritises the accounts and observations of those who have experienced the impacts of colonialism worldwide - not just the accounts of those who have studied it. This form of engagement is more direct, more personal. It is also an act of recognition; recognition of the fact that British colonialism didn’t just shape certain countries in a structural, political or abstract way - it shaped every single life it touched. And, in many ways, continues to do so, even today.

Some of the first testimonies we have gathered can be found below. If you or anyone you know in the UK, Kenya or elsewhere has direct or indirect experience of the Mau Mau Emergency that you would like to document and share, please get in touch with us via email at info@museumofbritishcolonialism.org.


James Njuguna Mwaura was twenty years old when the Mau Mau Emergency began. He joined the Mau Mau to fight for Kenya’s freedom and he took the oath. He was arrested and detained in Karatina Detention Camp for four years, surrounded by barbed wire so high they couldn’t reach it. He and his fellow detainees were interrogated but not willing to give answers, even if they were mistreated. During the historic court case in 2011, James showed the scars on his back from where he had been beaten.

Muthoni wa Kirima

Muthoni wa Kirimi was born in 1932 and was a top-ranking female fighter in Mau Mau Emergency. She fought in the forest for the duration of the Emergency was the only woman to attend the rank of field-marshall. Muthoni was never held in detention, and emerged from the forest to celebrate Kenya attaining independence in 1932. The MBC team has been fortunate to meet with Muthoni on more than one occasion and is looking forward to sharing her story with you.