Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

THE INTELLECTUAL LIVES OF MAU MAU DETAINEES*

  • DEREK R. PETERSON (a1)
Abstract

This article illuminates the creative intellectual and social projects in which Mau Mau detainees were engaged. It draws on the private papers of Gakaara wa Wanjau, a Gikuyu writer who during his eight years of detention composed several plays, wrote ethnography and poetry, and carried on an extensive correspondence with his family. Gakaara and other detainees were doing more than defending a Mau Mau ideology. They were opening up new ways of doing Gikuyu culture, holding wives and children accountable, and representing themselves to a British public that could, they hoped, be brought round to their side.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      THE INTELLECTUAL LIVES OF MAU MAU DETAINEES*
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      THE INTELLECTUAL LIVES OF MAU MAU DETAINEES*
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      THE INTELLECTUAL LIVES OF MAU MAU DETAINEES*
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
References
Hide All

1 KNA JZ 7/6: S. Fazan, ‘Petition no. 632: J. J. Gakaara Wanjau’, 12 July 1954.

2 GW correspondence, 1948–9 file: Gakaara to East Africa Command, n.d. [Jan. 1949].

3 GW correspondence, 1948–9 file: enrolment form, British Institute of Practical Psychology, n.d. [1949].

4 GW detention file: no title, confession notes, 8 May 1956.

5 PCEA II/G/4: Mau Mau oath confession forms, 1955–6; see J. Lonsdale, ‘The moral economy of Mau Mau’, in Lonsdale and B. Berman, Unhappy Valley (London, 1992); and D. Peterson, Creative writing (Portsmouth NH, 2004), ch. 6.

6 KNA JZ 7/6: Petition no. 632, Gakaara Wanjau, n.d.

7 Gakaara's biography is given in C. Pugliese's excellent Author, Publisher and Gikuyu Nationalist: The Life and Writings of Gakaara wa Wanjau (Bayreuth, 1995).

8 These two manuscripts have not survived. GW detention file: Gakaara wa Wanjau to G. Dennis, 18 Dec. 1953.

9 KNA AB 11/61: Gakaara to Community Development Office, 27 July 1957.

10 C. Elkins, ‘Detention, rehabilitation, and the destruction of Kikuyu society’, in J. Lonsdale and Atieno Odhiambo (eds.), Mau Mau and Nationhood (London, 2003), 191–226; and Elkins, Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya (New York, 2005).

11 Elkins, Imperial Reckoning, 60.

12 Ibid. 156.

13 Ibid. 179, 186–7.

14 KNA AH 9/5: Assistant Director of Medical Services to Commandant, Manyani, May 1954.

15 KNA AH 9/5: Legislative Council minutes, 9 Dec. 1954; Elkins, Imperial Reckoning, 138–41.

16 KNA JZ 7/4: Mbugwa Boro and Kimani Njoroge to Governor, 11 Feb. 1957.

17 J. M. Kariuki, Mau Mau detainee (Nairobi, 1963), 139–40.

18 KNA AH 9/37: Gitui to Governor, 20 Feb. 1954. See also M. Mathu, The Urban Guerilla (Richmond, 1974), 86.

19 Dr. Shannon, ‘The changing face of Kenya’, Kikuyu News, 210 (Oct. 1955).

20 GW detention file: Shifra to Gakaara, 4 July 1957.

21 KNA AB 18/2: Community Development Officer, Kerkerra Camp, to Probation Officer, Kiambu, 19 Dec. 1956.

22 GW detention file: Gakaara to Shifra, n.d. [mid-1957].

23 See KNA AB 18/10: Community Development Officer to District Commissioner (DC) Nakuru, 15 Dec. 1956.

24 For the Swynnerton Plan, see C. Leo, Land and Class in Kenya (Toronto, 1984); and G. Kitching, Class and Economic Change in Kenya (New Haven, 1980).

25 KNA AB 11/61: Atîrîrî, 1 51, 21 Sept. 1957.

26 KNA AB 1/94: Anderson Mureithi at Hola Camp to Community Development Officer, Saiyusi, 29 May 1957.

27 GW detention file: Gakaara to Raheli Warigia, 8 July 1957.

28 Gakaara wa Wanjau, Mîhîrîga ya AgîkÛyÛ (Karatina, 1960).

29 GW detention file: Gakaara to Shifra, 12 July 1958.

30 Cited in J. Lonsdale and C. Elkins, ‘Memories of Mau Mau in Kenya’ (unpublished paper for ‘Memory and Violence’ colloquium, Cortona, Italy, 2002).

31 W. S. Routledge and K. Routledge, With a Prehistoric People (London, 1968 [1910]), 20.

32 KNA DC/Nyeri/1/6/1: McClure, Jan. 1911; KNA PC/CP/6/4/3: DC Fort Hall, 19 May 1921.

33 S. K. Gathigira, Mîikarîre ya AgîkÛyÛ (Nairobi, n.d. [1933]).

34 M. Kabetu, Kîrîra kia ûgîkÛyÛ (Nairobi, 1991 [1947]) elaborates slightly on Gathigira's account.

35 J. Kenyatta, Facing Mount Kenya (London, 1953 [1938]), 2.

36 GW detention file: Gakaara to Shifra, 4 Nov. 1957.

37 GW detention file: Gakaara to Shifra, 26 Jan. 1956.

38 GW detention file: Gakaara to Shifra, 2 July 1957.

39 GW detention file: Gakaara to Shifra, 28 July 1957.

40 GW detention file: Gakaara to Shifra, 18 June 1958.

41 GW detention file: Shifra to Gakaara, 13 Aug. 1958.

42 GW detention file: Gakaara to Shifra, 8 July 1957.

43 GW detention file: Gakaara to Shifra, 29 July 1957.

44 GW detention file: Gakaara to Shifra, 21 June 1958.

45 GW detention file: Gakaara to Shifra, 8 Aug. 1958.

46 GW detention file: Gakaara to Raheli Warigia, 8 July 1957.

47 KNA AB 11/60: Staff Officer for Education, ‘Distribution of periodicals in camps’, 25 Oct. 1957.

48 Kariuki, Mau Mau Detainee, 177. Thanks to B. Shadle for this reference.

49 KNA AB 1/92: Rehabilitation Officer Kamiti to Commissioner for Community Development, 25 Mar. 1956.

50 CBMS A/T 2/6 Box 279, ‘Miss Martin’ file: Martin, circular letter, 1 Aug. 1955.

51 GW detention file: Unknown to Gakaara, 24 Feb. 1954.

52 GW detention file: Gakaara to Shifra, 9 Aug. 1958.

53 GW detention file: Gakaara to Shifra, n.d. [but Nov. 1957].

54 KNA AB 1/88: Community Development Officer to Secretary for Community Development, 8 July 1957.

55 Gakaara wa Wanjau, Mau Mau Author in Detention (Nairobi, 1988), 117.

56 GW Detention diary manuscript: May to June 1953.

57 GW Writing course correspondence: Gakaara to Regent Institute, 7 Feb. 1955.

58 Kariuki, Mau Mau Detainee, 87.

59 KNA AB 25/200: H. Church to Commissioner for Community Development, 13 Dec. 1954.

60 KNA AB 1/112: Kamiti Rehabilitation Officer to Commissioner for Community Development, 3 Feb. 1955.

61 KNA JZ 7/4: Embakasi convicts to Commissioner of Prisons, 6 Apr. 1957.

62 KNA JZ 7/4: ‘Black Africans in Manyani detention camp’ to Governor, 9 Mar. 1957.

63 KNA JZ 7/4: ‘The black people of Kenya in Manyani detention camps’, n.d. [Jan. 1957].

64 Kariuki, Mau Mau Detainee, 101–2.

65 KNA AB 11/59: J. Dames, ‘Distribution of periodicals’, 1 July to 30 Sept. 1957.

66 KNA JZ 7/4: Kamau Gachuke et al. to Thomas Dugdale, 18 Nov. 1956.

67 Bristol Breckenridge papers: J. M. Mungai, confession, 21–28 Sept. 1956.

68 KNA AH 9/37: Secretary for Defence to Commissioner of Prisons, 11 Dec. 1956.

69 Bristol Breckenridge papers: J. M. Mungai, confession, 21–28 Sept. 1956.

70 RH Mss. Afr. s. 2257: Howard Church, ‘The Athi experiment’, n.d.

71 For Lodwar, see Kariuki, Mau Mau Detainee, 116, and KNA JZ 7/4: R. Mwangi to Defence Secretary, 16 Apr. 1957; for South Yatta Works Camp, see KNA JZ 7/4: P. Bennett to Commissioner of Prisons, 14 Sept. 1954; for Kamiti, KNA AB 1/112: Warren-Gash, 31 Oct. 1957.

72 RH Mss. Afr. s. 2257: Church, ‘The Athi experiment’, n.d.

73 KNA JZ 7/4: Detainees at Sanjusi Island detention camp to Tom Mboya, 7 May 1957.

74 KNA JZ 7/4: John Gitiri to Secretary of State for the Colonies, 5 Sept. 1954.

75 KNA JZ 7/4: P. Bennett to Commissioner of Prisons, 14 Sept. 1954.

76 KNA JZ 7/4: ‘The black people of Kenya in Manyani detention camps’, n.d. [but Jan. 1957].

77 KNA AH 9/37: Maina Macharia et al. to Secretary of State for the Colonies, 1 Nov. 1956.

78 J. Breckenridge, Forty Years in Kenya (Dorset, Great Britain, n.d.), 212.

79 KNA AH 9/37: Kamiti prisoners to Governor, 6 Nov. 1956.

80 KNA JZ 7/4: Knowlden to Commissioner of Prisons, 21 Aug. 1954.

81 KNA JZ 7/4: ‘Black African detainees in Manyani camp’ to Colonial Secretary, 11 Mar. 1957.

82 KNA JZ 7/4: Kamau Gachui et al. to Secretary of State for the Colonies, n.d. [but 1956].

83 KNA JZ 7/4: John Gitiri to Secretary of State for the Colonies, 5 Sept. 1954.

84 Breckenridge, Forty Years in Kenya, 235.

85 Churchill College Dingle Foot papers 5/7: ‘List of Parliamentary questions’, n.d. [late 1955].

86 Church Missionary Society, Kenya: Call for Action (London, n.d. [1955]).

87 Eileen Fletcher, Truth about Kenya (London, 1956).

88 CBMS A/T 2/5 Box 278 ‘Eileen Fletcher's accusations’: Fletcher to L. Greaves, 28 June 1956.

89 CBMS A/T 2/6 Box 279 ‘CMS and Colonial Secretary’ file: Max Warren, notes, 28 Mar. 1955.

90 See J. Lonsdale, ‘Authority, gender and violence’, in Lonsdale and Odhiambo (eds.), Mau Mau and Nationhood; Peterson, D., ‘Wordy women’, Journal of African History, 42 (2001), 469–89; and L. Thomas, The Politics of the Womb (Berkeley, 2003), ch. 3.

91 G. Barra, 1000 Kikuyu Proverbs (Nairobi, 1960), 4.

92 EUL Gen. 1786/6: Barlow, ‘Kikuyu linguistics’, n.d. [1950s].

93 Barra, 1000 Kikuyu Proverbs, 6.

94 ACK Mau Mau file: Pittway, 23 Jan. 1954.

95 Interview: Peter Munene, Iruri, Nyeri district, 12 May and 9 Aug. 1998.

96 Elkins, Imperial Reckoning, 152–3.

97 Bristol 1996/86/B: W. Thompson, ‘Only the foothills’, n.d.

98 Breckenridge, Forty Years in Kenya, 228.

99 RH Mss. Afr. s. 2257: Church, ‘The Athi experiment’, n.d.

100 Gakaara wa Wanjau, Mau Mau Author, 184–7.

101 Gakaara wa Wanjau, Mwandîki wa Mau Mau Ithamîrio-inî (Nairobi, 1983), 147.

102 KNA AH 9/37: Secretary for Legal Affairs to Secretary for Community Development, 30 Oct. 1956.

103 Kariuki, Mau Mau Detainee, 131–2.

104 GW detention diary manuscript, 20 and 22 Mar. 1954.

105 KNA JZ 7/4: Aguthi detainees to Commissioner of Prisons, Mar. 1957.

106 KNA JZ 7/4: detainees at Athi River to Commissioner of Prisons, 10 Jan. 1957. Elkins (Imperial Reckoning, 207) reads this petition as a complaint against physical abuse, and ignores the writer's wider point.

107 Interview: Elijah Kiruthi, Mahiga location, Nyeri district, 15 June 1998.

108 KNA AB 1/108: Wild to Minister of Community Development, 9 May 1957.

109 Kariuki, Mau Mau Detainee, 67–8.

110 Gakaara wa Wanjau, Mau Mau Author, 26.

111 Ibid. 183.

112 Ngugi wa Kabiro, Man in the Middle (Richmond, British Columbia, 1973), 73–4.

113 GW detention file: Gakaara to wife and mother, 3 May 1956.

114 KNA AB 11/61: editorial, in Atîrîrî, 2 (23 Nov. 1957).

115 As argued in Elkins, Imperial Reckoning, 203–4.

116 Bristol 2002/218/002–074: G. Mviti to John and Caroline Breckenridge, 11 Apr. 1957.

117 GW detention file: Gakaara to Shifra, 3 July 1956.

118 GW detention file: Shifra to Gakaara, 18 Oct. 1956.

119 GW plays file: Gakaara wa Wanjau, ‘Let his wickedness judge him’, 1956.

120 Breckenridge, Forty Years in Kenya, 226–7.

121 GW detention file: Gakaara to Shifra, 15 Nov. 1956.

122 KNA AB 1/85: Staff Officer Education to Secretary of Community Development, 18 Sept. 1956.

123 Gakaara wa Wanjau, Mau Mau Author, 192.

* References to archives are abbreviated as follows: KNA: Kenya National Archives, Nairobi; GW: Gakaara wa Wanjau papers, Yale University Library, New Haven, Connecticut; RH: Rhodes House Library, Oxford; Bristol: Imperial and Commonwealth Museum, Bristol; PRO: Public Records Office, Kew (now the National Archive); PCEA: Presbyterian Church of East Africa archives, Nairobi; ACK: Anglican Church of Kenya archives, Nairobi; EUL: Edinburgh University Library; CBMS: Conference of British Missionary Societies archive, School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Research for this article was conducted with the assistance of the British Academy and the Smuts Fund at the University of Cambridge. Gakaara wa Wanjau's papers were seen at Yale University Library courtesy of Dorothy Woodson and Ann Biersteker. Joseph Kariuki translated much of Gakaara's Gikuyu-language correspondence.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of African History
  • ISSN: 0021-8537
  • EISSN: 1469-5138
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-african-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed