- Title: Kenyan Museum, Mau Mau fighter shed light on British colonial abuses
- Date: 9th July 2020
- Summary: VARIOUS OF CHAO WITH HER GRANDPARENTS
- Embargoed: 23rd July 2020 13:30
- Keywords: 3D models British Mau Mau Race colonialism digital historian digital imagery
- Location: NAIROBI, NYERI AND KIAMBU, KENYA
- City: NAIROBI, NYERI AND KIAMBU, KENYA
- Country: Kenya
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment
- Reuters ID: LVA00DCM36T7B
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Nearing 100, Gitu Wa Kahengeri clearly remembers the day when, as a prisoner of Kenya's colonial occupier Britain, he wanted to die.
"I was beaten the whole day until I did not feel pain any longer," he said, of one episode of abuse during the seven years he spent in the camps the British ran in the decade before Kenyan independence in 1963.
Set up to jail activists and sympathisers during the Mau-Mau uprising of 1952-1960, in which Kahengeri - born in the 1920s and Secretary General of the independence movement's Veterans Association - participated, the camps are a traumatic but largely forgotten part of Kenya's past.
Using eye-witness accounts and documents, Kenyan and British historians from the Museum of British Colonialism are now building an online archive of the period, complete with 3D recreations of some of the camps.
They include 27-year-old Chao Tayiana Maina.
"I've been through the public education system ... and not once do I remember hearing about detention camps," she told Reuters TV.
"There was a sense of betrayal. I didn't understand how this was not taught."
She recalls the shock she felt when, a few years ago, she read "Britain's Gulag", an account by American historian Caroline Elkins, who estimated more than 100,000 detainees died in the camps, victims of the combined effects of exhaustion, disease, starvation and systematic physical brutality.
Other historians have put the death toll in the tens of thousands.
The British High Commission was not available for comment.
In 2013, Britain made an out-of-court settlement of 20 million pounds to five claimants represented by the Mau Mau Association, and a public statement of regret for abuses committed.
When Maina delved more deeply, she discovered her own great-grandmother was a prisoner for seven years.
Her grandfather Daniel Sindiyo was only 16 when his mother was taken.
"If anyone collapsed (there), it was none of your business. If anyone died there, too bad," the 82-year-old former civil servant said.
Founded in 2018, the online museum is getting a second lease of life from the Black Lives Matter movement catalysed in part by the May 25 death of George Floyd in U.S. police custody, and its questioning of "official" versions of history.
"We have neglected or silenced certain voices. Thinking we can continue to live without understanding what truly happened is an injustice," said Maina.
(Edwin Waita, Katharine Houreld, Nazanine Moshiri)
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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