Residents and tourists poured into the streets of Malindi Tuesday to celebrate the death anniversary of Giriama freedom heroine Mekatilili wa Menza.
Overnight celebrations took place at Bungale in Magarini District, where Mekatilili was buried in 1914.
Hundreds of people held a procession from the museum to Lamu road, then to Sabaki bridge, where prayers from various communities were conducted. There were prayers from the Mijikenda, Meru, Kikuyu, Kamba, Taita and Italian communities, among others.
There were representatives from all eight provinces, among them, Kenya Human Rights Commission programme officer George Morara and writers Zarina Patel and Muthoni Likimani.
The annual ceremony was organised by the Malindi District Cultural Association (Madca) and sponsored by Unik and Alzein driving schools, among others.
Speakers praised the organisers for bringing various cultures together, saying it played a major role in the country’s healing and reconciliation, following the violence that proceeded the 2007 elections.
Mr Morara and Madca Secretary Joseph Karisa Mwarandu said Mekatilili was the first freedom heroine, but she had largely been forgotten.
Mekatilili led the Giriama uprising against British colonialists between 1913 and 1914. She opposed white occupation and forced labour on local youths.
She was captured and detained at Kisii prison but escaped and walked back to the Coast. She was arrested again and locked up at Kismayu, in present-day Somalia but again, ran back to her home in Bungale, where she died in 1914.
Mr Mwarandu urged the government to put emphasis on culture, which he said was a vital tool in bringing cohesion and unity among Kenyans.
An environment student at the University of London, Ms Christine Carter, who attended the ceremony, said the country could enhance the celebration to attract more tourists.