Asian African Heritage Trust

2000-2005 Exhibition
» Identity

After a continuous presence of over 200 years and having fifth generation Africans in almost all families, our Asian African minority is taking stock of itself. Is it African; Indian or South Asian or Kenyan; or all of these? What are its civic, cultural, political and social identities. After this period of two centuries it is clear that the community is now not wholly of the Indian sub-continent. All this has generated interest within the community and among fellow Kenyans. This exhibition examines part of the record. For as Dr. Isahakia put it, “The question of the depth and the breadth of your accomplishments in the social, economic, educational and political developments of the past must play an important role in defining your status in this country”. 1

This process of defining a community must come from the community itself. In respect of the Asian African community Dr. Sultan Somjee says, “How I define my social identity is my responsibility. For it is also my human right to practice and enjoy my bi-continental tradition. I hold the culture of the Indian Ocean of my Asian ancestors and their African descendants. That makes my family Asian African.” 2

Such a process is necessary for every Kenyan community. It is a process of self-definition, and not of being define by colonial or chauvinist apologists or administrators, or merely updating their ideas, pronouncements or stereotypes.

This involves a fresh look at the past. This can only be done by the gathering anew and re-examination of memories, images and the artefacts of daily life. And most of all, by honouring the dignity of the lives led by parents, grandparents, greatgrandparents and their forebears.

The Asian African presence is neither sufficiently represented in our history books nor in our schools or universities. Therefore, education and self-examination by the minority as by the nation itself, are overdue.

1. Dr. Mohamed Isahakia THE ASIAN AFRICAN MUSEUM PROJECT (Nairobi, 2000).

2. Sultan H. Somjee speech made at THE ASIAN AFRICAN HERITAGE TRUST (November, 1998) (Nairobi, The Asian African Heritage Trust, 2000).