Centre for Critical Heritage Studies


CCHS Seminar series with Olivia Windham Stewart

08 October 2019, 12:00 pm–1:00 pm

African digital heritage

The Mau-Mau uprising with Olivia Windham-Stewart from the Museum of British Colonialism

Event Information

Open to





Cecile Bremont


Drayton House B19 (Lecture theatre)
Drayton House
30 Gordon street

The Mau Mau Rebellion was an anti-colonial uprising in British-controlled Kenya
from 1952 to 1960. During the conflict colonial authorities detained tens of
thousands of suspected Mau Mau rebels without trial. The network of detention
camps that they built has been called ‘Britain’s Gulag’.

After Kenyan independence, the British government destroyed or hid files detailing
torture, ill-treatment and murder in these detention camps. Today the survivors of
the camps are elderly, the camps have not been preserved, and the history of the
rebellion is not well known either in Kenya or in the UK. There is a need for better
protection, understanding and communication of this heritage.

In 2018, The Museum of British Colonialism – a UK / Kenyan grassroots initiative formed to creatively communicate a more truthful account of British colonial history – began a project to identify, record and study the surviving traces of the detention camps with a view to preserving and extending knowledge of their existence, particularly amongst young people. 

With the support of UCL’s Centre for Critical Heritage studies, two members of the MBC team – Chao Tayiana and Gabriel Moshenska - conducted fieldwork in Nyeri Province with National Museums of Kenya curator Antony Maina. The team visited the sites of two former detention camps and carried out preliminary surveys and recordings. This talk will introduce MBC’s field work and bring the audience up to date on how they have been using digital tools and resources to restore and share this heritage.


About the Speaker

Olivia Windham-Stewart

Co-founder at British Museum of Colonialism

Olivia Windham Stewart co-founded the Museum of British Colonialism with Susan Kibaara and Tayiana Chao in 2018. As global labour specialist, much of Olivia’s career has taken her to work on business, human rights and labour issues in former colonies, including Bangladesh, Myanmar, India and Kenya. She began the MBC project in an effort to better understand and communicate the history of those countries in collaboration with others - particularly the way in which they were and are shaped by British colonial rule. The museum work continues to be a voluntary effort undertaken in her spare time. As part of this work, Olivia also produced and presented the HistoryHit documentary Operation Legacy.