A few kilometres from Meru town, in a small town called Muthara, is a nondescript cultural centre – one of the few in the country in honour of freedom fighters.
This one honours Field Marshal Musa Mwariama, one of the gallant fighters and highest ranking Mau Mau leader. On display here is a rare bullet proof vest that was used by the Mau Mau.
This vest is part of a growing record of Mau Mau weaponry – and armoury and which offers insight into the organisation of the movement.
Standing in the village where Mwariama hailed from, the Cultural Centre, according to its founder Simon Ntururu, immortalises not only his bravery and heroic acts during the Mau Mau war but also celebrates Mwariama’s contribution to the independence struggle.
Besides that, Ntururu says the facility also serves as a repository for the Ameru culture and houses various artefacts and material culture from the tribes within the Meru region. In essence, it is a cultural hub and a resource centre where present and future generations can get historical knowledge and study the past artefacts.
Mwariama Cultural Centre has three rooms. Upon entry, there is a well painted portrait of Mwariama and various other photos that we decorate the room. There is a portrait of Mwariama with President Jomo Kenyatta when the two met after independence.
It was during that meeting that President Jomo Kenyatta gave Mwariama the Kenyan flag – an indicator that the struggle was worth and over. In the line-up, you will also see General Kanampiu Mawira, Mwariama’s body guard. His uniform is among the valuable items kept at the facility.
Others photos displayed include that of Mau Mau War Veteran’s Association Secretary Gitu wa Kahengeri, Peter Munya – the first Meru governor, and Kiraitu Murungi- the current Meru governor. There are also photos of all Mau Mau veterans from the region that received compensation from the British government in 2013.
Besides the photos of Mau Mau personalities, the hub also has war paraphernalia used by the Mau Mau during the struggle. These includes arrows and quivers, clubs, and plastic bullet-proof vests.
The vests have an iron crest and were given to the Africans who fought in World War II. The soldiers wore the vests that covered the chest part of their backs.
In stark demonstration of how communication technologies has evolved, the Mwariama Cultural Centre is home to horns that were used as communication tools during the pre-independence period. There is a large horn used by Mau Mau during the war to pass messages over distances, blown to warn people of invasion by the whites. A small horn at the facility was among the communication gadgets blown by women to announce new born babies or commencement of planting or harvesting seasons.
A tour inside the facility stirs memories of traditional societies. The cultural hub has an assortment of ornaments worn by men or women during various traditional dances. Some of the ornaments were used during circumcision while others were worn during dances to celebrate bounty harvests and victories against enemies.
Domiciled in Meru, the cultural centres welcomes artefacts from all over the country.
Ntururu says he collects these historical material from all over Kenya provided they will enrich the resource centre. He is seeking donors to support this course.