Asian African Heritage Trust

2000-2005 Exhibition
» Social Heritage

The exhibition brings together for the first time hundreds of photographs of Asian African families over the past century, many never seen publicly before.

These reflect not the official records of the railway or government administrations but the community’s views of itself. Here are private views of the community in clothes, jewellery, prayers, festivals, weddings, betrothals and setting that the community had itself chosen. These are the keepsakes of numerous households, saved over the past hundred years and retrieved by the exhibition from family albums, old trunks, and neglected heaps of files, old service records from government or employers, letters and yellowed newspaper clipping, speaking now for those who have long remained inarticulate. These are records of pride, rejecting humiliation and domination.

They portray lives of dignity, resilience and resistance under adverse conditions.

One defence to such conditions was the tenacity of the community in holding on to its cultural practices. Another was the establishment of voluntary organizations that served the basic needs that discrimination and governmental neglect would not provide either adequately or at all. Voluntary welfare organization such as schools, clinics, hospitals and first aid units made provision for indigents. In time, these created an extensive and countrywide civil society sector in Kenya long before the recent growth of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Nor were these social services dependent on funding from outside the community. These institutions were funded by the community itself even when not affluent. Voluntary professional services were given over long periods by doctors, teachers and others.

Many of these services became public, and there are today many such public foundations and programs supporting scholarships, grants to schools and public health.

In the arena of sports the community over many years has been active in the Kenya Olympic Hockey team, the Kenya National Shooting Squad, the Kenya National Cricket team, and in other sports, including bodybuilding and wrestling. In motor rallying, Joginder Singh (The Flying Sikh) and Shekher Metha, both of Safari Rally fame, are international figures as Sarafino Antao in athletics.