New exhibition explores impact of Mau Mau emergency in 1950s Kenya

3D reconstruction of one of the ‘villages’
The Museum of British Colonialism

Research undertaken by a University of Bristol historian has informed a major new exhibition by The Museum of British Colonialism, which is taking place in Nairobi, exploring the history of Britain’s ‘villagisation’ programme in colonial Kenya.

Historians estimate that approximately 1.2 million Kenyans were forcibly resettled during the Mau Mau emergency which took place during the 1950s.

This is in addition to the 80,000 Kenyans who were detained. The British colonial administration named this process ‘villagisation’.

The Museum of British Colonialism has been researching the physical remains of one of these ‘villages’ and the experiences of those who were forcibly resettled. In this exhibition, it sheds light on an often-overlooked aspect of the Mau Mau Emergency.

The exhibition, which is the first of its kind, is taking place at Baraza Media Lab in Nairobi. It features testimonies of those who were forcibly resettled – research carried out by Bristol’s Dr Beth Rebisz, a 3D model of a ‘village’ and a film showcasing the Museum’s fieldwork.

Dr Rebisz, who is based at the University of Bristol’s Department of History, said: “My research has sought to better understand how Kenyan women and girls were impacted by Britain’s violent campaign against the anti-colonial movement known as the Mau Mau.

“Britain forcibly resettled 1.2 million Kenyans into what they called ‘villages’, which were concentration camps in all but name.

“Using oral testimonies of women who were forcibly resettled alongside the remaining photographs of these camps I could find in the colonial records I’ve been able to work with digital experts at African Digital Heritage to construct a digital reconstruction to show what one of these camps would look like and how women experienced these violent spaces.

“The public and academic discourse of Britain’s use of forced resettlement in Kenya has been limited and we want to centre the narratives of those who have been most marginalised in this.”

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