Reconstructing Mau Mau detention camps – Towards a more truthful account of British colonialism

The 1950’s Mau Mau revolt and subsequent State of emergency is one of the bloodiest periods in Kenyan history. Declared in October 1952, the emergency was instated to quell the Mau Mau uprising which grew in response to oppressive colonial rule and practices. One of the main tactics used by the British to ‘stop’ the movement was to setup detention camps where many locals were held, tortured and abused. These camps were sub-divided into work camps, exile camps, holding camps, women and juvenile camps among others. Historians estimate that more than 100 such centres were setup during this period.

What is surprising however, is that despite their prevalence, there is very little known about these camps within the public sphere in both Kenya and in the UK.

 

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We are excited to partner with Museum of British Colonialism to document and reconstruct these centres and curate an exhibition centred around their existence and history. We believe that these camps played a central role in the struggle for independence and through our research we hope to shed some light on their location (Where they were), their physicality (How they looked), their composition (Who they held and where they came from) and their intentions (Why were they created).

Our role as digital heritage partners

We started off by building an interactive map to position the camps in their respective locations to get a sense of where they were. Our preliminary research was both revealing and astounding. Seeing the camps spread out all over the country just showed the scale of the detention centres and that no part of Kenya was unaffected by the emergency.

Our next step is to take this map to a level higher and incorporate more assets and context to it. We intend to use archival footage in the form of photographs and videos, to piece together how different camps might have looked and create 3D reconstructions of them. These 3D assets will then be combined with images and audio from interviews to create an emotive, personal experience that provides context on the physical nature of the camps and the experiences of the time.

Example of a 3D digital reconstruction of a camp: Note this is just a prototype and not an actual representation

We envisage this as being displayed on a touch screen within a gallery setting. We also envision it as a participative rather than solitary experience, where despite one person controlling the touch screen, the data and information is projected onto a wall where other visitors can also see and hear.

A demonstration of how the reconstruction can be layered onto a map for teaching, entertainment and demonstration purposes

DIGITAL RECONSTRUCTION – HOW WILL WE CARRY IT OUT ?

We look forward to sharing more on our journey retracing the camps and eventually hosting an exhibition in Kenya and the UK.

We need all the help we can get to bring this to life, and we’re bringing everyone together, from Mau Mau veterans, to young students who want to see a better representation of their shared history.

Help us make this a reality by contributing to our crowd-funding campaign and sharing it with friends and family.This project is carried out in partnership with the Museum of British Colonialism. 

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Please note that the reconstructions shown in this article are for demonstration purposes only.

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