Kenyan legends shown as superheroes

Friday December 14 2018

Nandi leader Kimnyole Arap Turukat by Tatu Creatives. PHOTO | KARI MUTU | NMG


Digital designer Masidza Galavu and his team of young creators, Tatu Creatives, are having an exhibition of drawings of historic and legendary Kenyan heroes and heroines shown as superhero figures.

Titled Shujaa Stories, the drawings on show at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi. Shujaa is Swahili for heroes.

“We chose precolonial heroes and heroines because we felt they have been ignored and forgotten,” said Galavu.

Featuring prominently are legends such as warrior Lwanda Magere who was believed to have superhuman strength, and the magician leader Gor Mahia, both of the Luo community of southwestern Kenya.

The Maasai brothers Senteu and Batian are also featured not only for their bravery but the power struggle to succeed their legendary father, chief Mbatian.

Heroines, Galavu chose to illustrate are Mekatilili wa Menza, a pre-Independence leader of the Giriama community from the Coast, and Wangu wa Makeri, the only Kikuyu woman appointed headman by the colonial government.


Shown as an alluring beauty in a white skirt and bare midriff is Syetune, a warrior of the Kamba people.

Freedom fighter Moraa wa Ng’iti of the Kisii people is drawn seated between two leopards in an imposing pose.

But more interesting are the lesser known figures such as an orphan boy called Mukite wa Nameme who became a celebrated military leader who united the western Kenya Bukusu clans in the mid-19th century; and also from the colonial period in Somalia is Mohamed Abdullah, the "mad mullah,'' an Islamic rebel of the early 20th century.

Tatu Creatives chose to present the characters in contemporary art styles.

They are depicted in warrior-like poses, with rippling muscles, puffed out chests, legs spread-eagled and shoulders thrown back.

They carry weapons and staff, although one or two of them have swords with European-style cross guards.

Some are holding swirling balls of light and orbs of mist while other are reminiscent of characters in the Marvel comic book series.

“The idea was to create content that captures local heroes and bring them out in a superhero way,” says Galavu.

Shujaa will show at other national museums in the country. The team is working on comic and story books based on the lives of the featured heroes and heroines.