The Zaina Trail

Maureen Ng’ayu joined the Museum team in March 2019. She is a final year student Travel and Tourism Management Student at Kenya Methodist University, an International Air Transport Association (I.A.T.A.) certified Consultant, Sustainable Travel and Tourism Agenda (S.T.T.A.) Change Maker, the mind behind East African Simba Travels (E.A.S.T.) and a mother.

Maureen is excited to see how History and Heritage merge with Travel and Tourism while working with MBC. Just after joining the team, she took a trip to Meru to visit and speak with her grandmother and walk the Zaina trail. We are excited to share her blog below!

The story of the MAU MAU has always intrigued me. It’s close to my heart as I hail from where all the action happened. It seems, however, to be shrouded in mystery and this has led me down a path that seeks to demystify its theories.

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I just now returned from a trip to Meru where my grandmother is a native. She is well into a century of her life and still strong though now slowly and sadly fading away. Never before have we talked at such lengths about this historical fact. But today my eyes were opened to new perspectives and I can’t wait to hear more.

At the time of the infamous curfew imposed on my people, she was a mother of three and was operating a shop with my grandfather. Here, she was at the centre of the tension from both ends and she witnessed the brutality and bravery of all the players.

As a trader, those who fought for freedom and those who opposed it were regular clientele. She narrated to me the harrowing near-death experiences she survived and it was nothing short of breathtaking.

She told of babies strapped to the backs of their mothers upside down to aid in manoeuvring through thick forest seeking hideouts. The reason for strapping the tots in such a precarious position was to protect their delicate heads from being scathed by thorns. You would imagine they would wail and throw up with all the blood rushing to their tiny brains but no. Not a sound did they make. How else you can describe an act of God, I don’t know.

She told of lifeless arms bobbing up and down in government trucks passing through. Their drivers leisurely stopping for a refreshing drink before proceeding on to offload the carcasses at a humongous pit where they then set them on fire.

She told of days the curfew was in full force, when they had to sit in a Chiefs office from dawn to dusk. On these days they had to forgo trading, food and drink and not forgetting toilet breaks. All they could do was sit there silently until the day’s activity was complete.

She told of witnessing, with her own eyes, mutilated bodies sliced open at the throat. These images put fear in her heart and she confided in her husband about wanting to leave. But it was no secret that there was nowhere to run to. There was no-one the war hadn’t touched. She and her family were only safe under the Chief’s protection because to the eyes of the warriors, they passed for sympathisers. And none of them, if ever caught, would get away with their life.

As sordid as the details sound to my millennial ears, something of strength left her lips and I have never felt more empowered. Many females of today will be surprised to hear that the females of that time were the bravest and most tactful warriors. Their attacks were unprecedented, vicious and exacting. When they struck they never missed and always got the job done. They were fearless! Nothing short of magnificent.

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Needless to say, this was by far the most revealing and awe-inspiring MAU MAU story I have heard yet. I am pumped and I can’t wait to learn more. It got me back to the reason for doing this project as it is my view that women today pale in comparison to our heroines who have gone unappreciated for so long.

We, as females must put our boots back on, face and fearlessly fight whatever ails our present society. We cannot afford to, any longer, sit on the sidelines and expect things to miraculously work themselves out. We must put on a stern stance and refuse to be shoved any which way.

So, girls, ladies, women, even men, remember who you are and where you have come from. Wake up from those cocoons and manifest yourselves into a force to be reckoned with. If you don’t, no-one else will. God will not come from the skies and make everything alright. So get up and face whichever demons stand in your way. You have the strongest backing that you have no clue about.

Let us all men and women, leave our groups behind and stand alone for what we believe to be true and just. A heavy price was paid for what we now carelessly enjoy: freedom. Pay back by being responsible and insightful in whatever this life throws at you.

Seek knowledge and you will gain understanding and thus be wiser for the next generation. As you bring them into the world and raise your tots, make it a priority to never let them forget how precious their land is.

Let us all be worthy custodians of this priceless history which is now, gratefully, our reality. Own up and don’t delegate. Know your history and let it be the foundation for a great destiny.

From my grandmother and East African Simba, to you, with much love.

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By Maureen Ng’ayu. Read Maureen’s blog on her website here.