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Rose Miyonga

History, University of Warwick

Thesis title:

Forgive and Forget? Mau Mau and the Making of Memory and History in Post-Colonial Kenya

My project looks at the dynamics of popular history- and memory- making of the Mau Mau War in post-independence Kenya. I am particularly interested in understanding what popular memories of Mau Mau looked like in the years of political ‘forgetting’ between 1964 and 2004. The project, therefore, will examine the ways that individuals and local communities sought to remember Mau Mau, and where these memories were stored. Connected to this, I am interested in questions of land justice and how this has been a key contingency in the way that histories of the Mau Mau War have been imagined by veterans, by communities, and by the Kenyan nation as a whole.

The study hopes to go beyond the existing historiography by taking Mau Mau veterans’ memories themselves as a subject of study, and by looking specifically at the ways that these memories were negotiated in the years before they became of interest to researchers and activists. As such, it will explore what history-making looked like ‘from below’ in post-independence Kenya. 

My research centres around oral histories with Mau Mau veterans and their descendants, as well as a critical exploration of the archival fragments of the War in both the UK and Kenya. My methodology is influenced by feminist theories on participatory research interviews, and seeks to view oral histories not as static collection of data, but as dynamic parts of the history-making process themselves. 

Research Area

  • History
  • Imperial/Colonial History


'Colonial Afterlives: Land and the Emotional History of the Mau Mau War' The Funambulist, 40 (March 2022)

'Imagining Kenyan Futures through Kenyan Pasts', The Elephant, December 2021,  https://www.theelephant.info/ideas/2021/12/03/imagining-kenyan-futures-through-kenyan-pasts/


'Show and Tell: Personal archives, oral sources, and the production of history in Kenya', From Archival Pasts Towards Archival Futures’ Workshop, November 2022

'Crisis and Contingency: A Family History of the Mau Mau War', History Lab Conference, July 2022

'Mau Mau's Afterlives: Memories of War in the Post-Colonial Kenyan Landscape', Fotomuseum Antwerp, February 2022

'Gender, Personal Archives and the Emotional History of the Mau Mau War', Cambridge History of Memory and Emotions Workshop, February 2022

Public Engagement & Impact

I have been working with the Belgian photographer Max Pinckers on a long-term public project in collaboration with Mau Mau veterans. The project, which is ongoing, has been presented at the Fotomuseum of Antwerp, and we recently produced an art film entitled 'Tall Tales', which exhibited at the Hamburg Photography Triennial in May 2022. 

I recently featured on the Imperial War Museum podcast Conflict of Interest, discussing the Mau Mau War alongside John Londsdale, Nikita Gil and Niels Boender. 

Other Research Interests

  • Memory studies 
  • Post-colonial studies 
  • Oral history
  • Participatory research methodologies 
  • Land justice/restorative justice 
  • History of emotions 

Professional & Academic Background

I completed an MA in Race and Resistance at the University of Leeds in September 2021. My dissertation, titled ‘We Are the Ones Who Remember’: Mau Mau, memory and history in post-colonial Kenya' used oral histories and material fromt the Kenyan National Archives to explore how female veterans have remembered the Mau Mau War. 
I also hold a BA in Spanish and Portuguese with Latin American Studies from University College London. 

Before taking up my MA studies, I worked as a teacher in Kenya. 

Prizes and Awards

University of Leeds Marion Sharples Prize for Best History MA Dissertation, 2021
University of Leeds History Masters Scholarship, 2019
UCL Dean's List, 2018