The following poem is inspired by the Mau Mau rebellion, a historical uprising of the Kikuyu people in Kenya against British colonists, long thought to have been semi-peacefully “dealt with” by the British military. This was until a series of documents were released from a Foreign Office archive pointing to a long list of inexcusable war crimes conducted by the British colony in relation to the Mau Mau.
Growing up, I always learned to be proud of my British heritage. England always brought about images of castles, chivalry, and places where the books I read were set in. But when I learned about the Mau Mau, and learned of other atrocities that the British were responsible for, my view of my country was tainted. British Colonialism was inexcusable and the Mau Mau case made this every so clear for me.
In total, the number of Kenyans killed by the British during the Mau Mau uprising is thought to be around 25,000, along many other thousands of Kenyans tortured, raped, or incarcerated.
In contrast, the number of white Europeans that were killed in the conflict was just 32.
Since the news came out, Britain paid a large sum to Kenya for their war crimes, but it cannot erase the fact that it happened. And as a person who has indirectly benefitted from British colonialism, I feel that it is important for me to recognize these events. I hope that this poem reflects some of these thoughts.
A ghost revolution
Living the minds of those who saw
Those who broke the law
Laws created by some evil from another land
Who gathered the evidence of their war crimes
Of the times they went too far
Of the times they wished to forget
And hid them in a fortress
Row upon row
From the eyes of the World.
In an emotional divide
Nostalgia flooded with guilt
As I begin to see the blood
Concealed behind the fragile image of Great Britain.
Reading books of kings and queens
Getting lost in dreams with themes of heroism
That in other lands there were plans of war
That tore through nations
Cutting through their culture
Dividing friends and family
Leaving no stone unturned.
It’s time I learned
Image Source: The Independent
I bear upon me a weight
A weight that makes me lighter
For that is privilege.
I must look forward
For guilt is but the first step.