Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


African American Studies


Micere G. Mugo


Anti-colonial resistance, Gikuyu rituals, Mau Mau, Nommo, Oaths, Oral History

Subject Categories

African History | African Studies


The purpose of this project is to examine the role of rituals in the Mau Mau struggle for Kenya's independence. Traditionally, research on the Mau Mau has focused on the political and socio-economic aspects of Kenya's anti-colonial struggle. As a result, the place of spirituality and, in particular, the role of rituals in the Mau Mau struggle has largely been ignored in existing literature. Initially, when KLFA rituals were studied at the height of the Mau Mau struggle, the task was undertaken by colonial anthropologists and psychologists who were often unable to escape the snare of racist and Eurocentric prejudices in their analyses. Subsequent revisionist studies have attempted to be more objective in their analyses, but the focus has mainly been on the elements and details surrounding the actual ceremonies, at the expense of how these rituals impacted individual freedom fighters. Using oral history interviews of seventeen former Mau Mau freedom fighters, this project looks at how rituals impacted individual freedom fighters and shaped their views of, and contributions to, the struggle for Kenya's independence. The study uncovers six Mau Mau rituals including drinking the oath, clutching soil at death, seeking a seer, singing, praying, and wearing locked hair. Relying on African Indigenous Knowledges to frame and interpret the collected narratives, this study particularly uses Nommo -- the creative and generative power of the spoken word--to demonstrate that the Mau Mau struggle effectively utilized the utterances made during ritual ceremonies to generate courage, perseverance, strength, commitment, and other values that were invaluable to the struggle. Ultimately, the study establishes that experiences of rituals were integral to shaping the participation of freedom fighters in the Mau Mau struggle for Kenya's independence.


Open Access