Mwangeka Wa Malowa: The Magnificent (Taita community) (2019) by Shujaa StoriesNational Museums of Kenya
Mwangeka Wa Malowa: The Story of The Magnificent Taita Warrior
Mwangeka son of Malowa was born in Mwanda Kwa Weni Ngasu in 1842 in Taita Taveta, land of majestic hills, sometimes shrouded in clouds and mists, which hug the bosom of the sky. As was typical among the Taita in those days he had three wives Zighe Mshote, Mfwa Mwaghowa, and Mfwa Ndaghina who bore him four sons and two daughters.
As a leader, he championed his people in opposing colonial rule in the 19th century. At his command was a Taita army, which provided security on the long distance trade routes from Mombasa to Kilimanjaro, via Taru, Voi, Mwatate and Taveta.
Since he was in control of this route, Mwangeka often levied taxes on the coastal traders who used it. Some traders also signed mtero or treaties with Mwangeka, to ensure their well-being in his territory. However, some traders did not take kindly to that, viewing it as a sign of disrespect to the Sultan.
The British were to present a challenge to the existing order with their plan to invade what was to become independent Kenya under the Imperial British East Africa Company. The Sultan of Mombasa chose to collaborate with the British to undermine Mwangeka’s influence.
As with other military incursions, the British soldiers engaged in what they had become notorious for pillage, plunder, torture and destruction. That is until they met Mwangeka’s soldiers at Mwashoti where they were greeted with fierce resistance.
It took the British one month to get to the Taita hills because the terrain favoured Mwangeka’s soldiers. Even with their superior weapons, the British were sent scampering down the hills in retreat. They were no match for the shrewd military tactics of Mwangeka’s army.
Mwangeka’s fall ,came through betrayal by one of his own men, Mbogholi wa Samaghembe who leaked Mwangeka’s military tactics to British intelligence, having been bribed. With that information, the British advanced to the village of Mlughi where they torched houses and wounded innocent people. An ally of Mwangeka called Isanga Iwishi was made aware that the British then moved on to Bura and Mwashoti.
However, Mwangeka, although forewarned of his imminent death by walughi or diviners, ignored them and led his army to Mwashoti to confront the British. Largely because his military tactics had been leaked, Mwangeka’s army put up a spirited fight but, unfortunately, was defeated.
As reinforcements did not come in good time, Mwangeka ordered a retreat. But an enemy bullet found its mark. Mwangeka fell to the ground.
News of his death was a crushing blow to his people. Mnjala wa Ruma, Mwangeka’s second-in-command gathered them into the Vuria caves as a last line of defence.
Although a cease-fire was arrived at through mediation and peace was restored the trade routes were now under British control. However Mwangeka wa Malowa had played his part and he remains a superhero.
Mwangeka’s legacy lives on:
Under colonial rule, the unique forests of the Taita Hills were replaced with plantations of fast-growing exotic trees.
As the population grew, people also farmed higher on the hills. As a result, only small forests remain on hill tops. These forests are home to birds, butterflies, amphibians, trees and other plants found nowhere else on Earth. Therefore, the Taita Hills are a Key Biodiversity Area. People come from all over the world to see birds such as the Taita Thrush and Taita Apalis.
Research field work was undertaken in Samburu and Marsabit (for Gabbra, Samburu, Rendille, Saakuye, Dasanach, Elmolo, Waayu a.k.a Waata, and Burji superheroes/heroines), Embu and Tharaka (for Aembu, Tharaka, Ameru and Mbeere superheroes/heroines), Mombasa ( for Boni, Swahili, Pokomo, Segeju and Bajuni superheroes/heroines)and Taita-Taveta/Voi (for Taveta superheroes/heroines) capturing all information about the heroes from the 40 selected ethnic groups/communities by Museum’s research team. The illustrations were done using digital media by Shujaa Stories Limited.
National Museums of Kenya - Contributors
Mzalendo Kibunjia (PhD) - Director General
Purity Kiura (PhD) - Director Antiquities, Sites & Monuments
Julias Juma Ogega - Senior Curator/Research Scientist
Njuguna Gichere - Research Scientist
Lydia Gatundu - Art of Curator
Emmanuel Kariuki - Exhibit Designer
Philemon Nyamanga - Curator/Research Scientist
Mercy Gakii - Curator/Research Scientist
Imelda Muoti - Curator/Archivist
Innocent Nyaga - Marketing Officer
Suzanne Wanjaria - Exhibits Designer
Ray Balongo Khaemba - Senior Collection Manager
Raphael Igombo - Education Officer
Eddy Ochieng – Photographer/Videographer
Shujaa Stories Ltd
Tatu Creatives Ltd
Shujaa Stories Ltd
Shujaa Stories Ltd – Contributors
Masidza Sande Galavu - Illustrator
Jeff Muchina- Editing
Martha Shavuya Galavu - Illustrator
Brian Kiraga – Research and Writing
Daisy Okoti - Editing
Shani Mutarura - Editing
Juelz Laval – Photography/Videographer
Linda Tambo - Photography
Nature Kenya- The East Africa Natural History Society (EANHS)