“Asia in my life”: How Asia/Asians influenced Africa/Africans

Circa 1964 – “Resolutely support the anti-imperialist struggle of peoples in Asia, Africa and Latin-America!”

There is an excellent essay up on Pambazuka by the amazing Kenyan, Kikuyu writer, Ngugi wa Thiong’o entitled “Asia in my life”. In the essay, wa Thiong’o reflects on the significant role India played in not only his life, but in anti-colonial struggles across the African continent. The essay is call for more than POC solidarity, but also South-South cooperation as he specifically mentions countries in Africa, Asia and South America and encourages us to “escape the long shadow of the ‘Age of the European Empire’.

I truly encourage everyone to head over to Pambazuka and read wa Thiong’o’s essay. I hardly ever read long essays word for word online, but trust me, I read this one.

Find below my favourite “quotes” from “Asia in my life”, take them as an encouragement to read the entire essay.

Ahmed Kathrada was one of the ten defendants in the famous Rivonia trial that would lead him to Robben Island where he spent 18 years alongside Mandela and others.


The birth of Trade Union Movement in Kenya was largely the work of Gamal Pinto and Makhan Singh. Imprisoned by the Kenya colonial authorities repeatedly, Makhan Singh would never give up the task of bringing Indian and African workers together. He was the first prominent political leader to stand in a court of law and tell the British colonial state that Africans were ready to govern themselves, a heresy that earned him imprisonment and internal exile. Kapenguria is usually associated with the trial and imprisonment of Jomo Kenyatta but Makhan Singh preceded him. There have been some Indian political martyrs, the first being the Indian workers executed for treason, by the authorities in the very early days of colonial occupation. Gamal Pinto, a hero of the anti-colonial resistance, would be a prominent victim of the post-colonial negative turn in Kenyan politics. Though under a fictional name, Gamal Pinto, has been immortalized in Peter Nazareth’s novel, In a Brown Mantle one of the best literary articulations of the political drama of the transformation of African politics from the colonial to the neo-colonial.


The recent explosion of Chinese interest in African might obscure the fact that there has always been a small but significant migrant Chinese presence, in South Africa mostly, but also in Zimbabwe. Fay Chung whose grandparents migrated to Rhodesia in the 1920s became an active participant in the anti-colonial struggle, at one time running for her life into exile in Tanzania, was a big player in the founding of Zimbabwe. She founded Zimfep which invited Kamĩrĩthũ theater to Zimbabwe, a visit was scuttled by the Moi regime by simply banning the theater group and forcing one of its leaders, the late Ngũgĩ wa Mĩriĩ, to flee to Zimbabwe, and under Zimfep, launched the Zimbabwe community theatre movement1 ensuring that the continuity and expansion of the Kamĩrĩthũ spirit. Read more…

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