OldSoul : Sunday Noon ET CRISPY CHAT Topic: Mau Mau

OldSoul

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When one thinks of the Mau Mau uprising, the images are of African natives slitting the throats of white settlers and farmers in their sleep, and of Jomo Kenyatta, the famous Burning Spear who later became the first President of Kenya. In the United States the images were all pro-British and avid audiences watched motion pictures on the subject such as the 1955 Simba, where the Mau Mau were depicted as murderous hordes or betrayers who murdered their white masters, friends, and children in their beds. The best selling novel Something of Value, by Robert Ruark, reinforced this official version of black savagery. In 1957 it was made into a motion picture and Prime Minister Winston Churchill narrated the prologue to the movie. In Safari, the guerrillas slaughter Europeans all through the movie while white hunter Victor Mature gallantly tries to fight and kill the savage murderers. The rebellion really was more of a black-on-black wave of violence.
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Jomo Kenyatta had visited the Soviet Union in 1932. Because he was an outspoken advocate of black liberation, the white settlers and colonial government assumed that he was a leader of the Mau Mau. This very tenuous thread to the Red threat was used by the British authorities.
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The name "Mau Mau" was never used by the Kikuyu themselves, and did not exist in their language. In general, they called themselves the "Land Freedom Army," or the "Freedom Struggle Association." It may have been invented as part of a psychological operations campaign by the British like "Hun" or "Wog" in an attempt to demonize the Kikuyu people, make them less than human, and easier to hate and kill. It worked quite well. The name is still known today and signifies murderers and savages, although it has no meaning in the Kikuyu language. More interesting, the term has gradually entered the language. We find numerous quotes in literature such as "Are you trying to Mau-Mau me?"
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The leader of the movement, Dedan Kimathi, was opposed to the use of the term Mau Mau to describe the guerrillas. He preferred them to be called the Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KLFA).
 

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