by Braz Menezes

Just Matata (Original Debut)

Just Matata, the first novel of the Matata trilogy has been superseded by Beyond the Cape: Sin, Saints, Slaves, and Settlers. It was first published in 2011 and lacked a broader context that would explain the cultural transformation of the Goan people during the first two hundred years of Portuguese imperialism. Nor did it explain why and how the British turned to Goa to seek the human skills it needed to accomplish its colonization of those African territories it was allocated after the Berlin Conference of 1884.

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DogearsEtc (Goa, India)



Product Description

Just Matata starts in in twentieth-century Kenya. Britain, on a quest for cheap submissive labour to help administer East Africa, its share of the African pie, recruits Goans who represent the “westernized Christian Indian”. Chronicling the coming-of-age story of the precocious Lando, the novel follows a family whose identities straddle their Portuguese Goan ethnicity and pre-independent Kenyan nationality. Lando grapples with the complexities of family loyalties, identity, and racial segregation.


  1. :

    I just could not put the book down until i finished it, this Thanksgiving Day. You have a storytelling gift! It is beautifully written, and illuminating in a sense.

    It was me recapturing my past. I was sent to Bombay to study at the age of 10 with my younger sister who was 9. We did not see our parents for 4 years but contracting diphtheria was our ticket back to Uganda.

    Lando’s narration is a nostalgic portrayal of the textures of our life in East Africa in the 50s. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have recommended it to many of my friends.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. :

    an excellent book. took me back to all the places I love and miss.

  3. :

    A Gem of Historical Fiction

    These books are absorbing reading. They combine the social history of a family and community with thorough historical research that informs the reader of Kenya’s political evolution. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to read “Just Matata: Sin, Saints and Settlers” and it’s sequel, “More Matata: Love After the Mau Mau” (The first two books of The Matata Trilogy) by Braz Menezes, a former renowned Kenyan architect, turned author. Partly autobiographical, the books chronicle the culturally rich and colourful coming-of-age story of a young & precocious boy and his traditional Catholic Goan family in pre-independent Kenya. Told from the POV of the boy, Lando (in “Just Matata”), and later of the young man (in “More Matata”), he first describes how his father ends up in Kenya in 1928, putting down roots originally in Mombasa and then in Nairobi, before returning to Goa briefly to gain a wife in 1935.

    Lando, born as WW II breaks out in Europe, grows up across the road from the (Europeans only) Parklands Sports Club and within walking distance to the then Coryndon Museum. He experiences a traditionally Goan up-bringing superimposed over a typically adventuresome Kenyan boyhood (in “Just Matata”), before he is sent off at the age of eleven, to a Jesuit-run boarding school in faraway Goa. But he manages an escape. This is followed by even more complicated but equally rich and valuable teen years during the Mau Mau, as he forges into virgin terrain at an ‘Asians only’ high school in Kenya, and later into the first multi-racial class at what was the inaugural Nairobi University. His apprenticing internships at various architectural firms are thought provoking, as are his anxieties about inter-racial relationships and marriage.

    You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and even learn through the culturally interesting eyes of the young Goan-Kenyan. You’ll also be taken down a wonderful memory lane full of anecdotes of the unique kind of growing-up experiences shared by Kenyan of all nationalities, including (but not limited to) masala-spiced mangoes, the Museum and the Leakey family, a first safari, a memorable family picnic in the Rift Valley, shopping in the Indian Bazaar, a family visit to Old Town Mombasa, a return voyage by steamship to Goa, and a glimpse of life in boarding school. Lando also has a bossy older sister, a loyal dog named Simba, and a compelling schoolboy crush.

    The 2 books really are “must reads” for anyone who ever grew up or lived in Kenya (and curious tourists) wanting to understand the historical social fabric, then or now. I am enthusiastically sharing my reactions, as I believe other readers will absolutely enjoy reading “Just Matata” and “More Matata,” by Braz Menezes. Buy them today and then, like me, yearn to find out what happens next in the still untitled, soon-to-be released 3rd book of the trilogy. Happy reading!

  4. :

    Having been born and raised in Kenya, I recently purchased Just Matata by Braz Menezes — what a fabulous read!

    The “heady” colonial times leading up to Kenya’s Independence in 1963 has largely been documented through the eyes of the elite European settlers and it is extremely interesting to read and understand the outlook that a Goan family would have made of the same country in the same times.

    Braz has cunningly used different generations of the same family that emigrated from Goa to Kenya and, as well as outlining a fascinating story, he expresses history and events with the resultant impact on the whole family’s lifestyle. The author manages to portray the point of view of this very unusual perspective largely through the eyes of a child that questions the inherent situation without malice or bitterness but with enthusiasm, precise observation and a certain degree of naivety.

    There is no other book that I have read that expresses all the senses associated with Kenya — the visual descriptions of parts of this fascinating country, the glamorous colours in the market stalls, the exotic smells of the spices and the varying tastes of the equatorial food, the individualities of the people and characters, the incidents and fears all come to life as you turn the pages.

    The last couple of days, whilst reading this book, I have been transported back to the country of my youth. I congratulate Braz on his power of observation and his expertise in portraying a complex scenario involving different nationalities, very diverse cultures, various religions, class and caste divergences, several generations and changing times.

    I look forward to reading Book Two of the Matata trilogy and have already ordered it. Presumably, a third book is planned to be published — roll on the production!

    Just Matata also encompasses much interesting information and vivid descriptions of Goa — enough to captivate the imagination, grasp the rudiments of the structure and make this a must-visit country.

  5. :

    I have just finished Just Matata by Braz Menezes and have started the second book in the series! Such a wonderful narrative and so beautifully written! These books have really brought back memories for me growing up in Kenya during the ’50s adn ’60s. I highly recommend Braz’s books — a great read and a complete picture of what life was like in colonial Kenya.

  6. :

    Vivid humorous tale!

    Such a well told story…I can just imagine being there and experiencing Kenya and Goa with the author. Fills in some blanks in my own family history as my father was from the same generation and would have done many of the same things! Excellent easy reading! Would recommend to anyone who wants to have an insight to Kenyan/Goan history of the 40s through to the 50s.

  7. :

    Braz’s book on growing up in Kenya and Goa, India surpassed expectations.

    It is written in a style that invokes all the sounds, smells, and sights of a bygone age in Africa and perhaps increasingly so, in India. It conjures up a vivid picture of the author’s surroundings and life as a child and shares his feelings in a very amusing and understanding way. He is modest and shares his fears and failings and it is this that helps make this a delightful read.

    As a child of a Goan family struggling to make ends meet, yet maintaining dignity and a sense of purpose, Braz leads us on an interesting journey through his life as an innocent, decent youth, who can see but perhaps does not understand the social injustices he witnesses. This book should resonate with anyone who was brought up in colonial Africa.

    A talented author, he leaves the reader with the feeling that he’s a good, fun, nice guy, much in the way Bill Bryson does.

    I look forward to reading the second in the trilogy.

  8. :

    I so enjoyed this book. It gave me an insight to the early Goans arriving in East Africa. Not being a Catholic and living up in the Highlands, I never came across anyone from Goa. Although my great grandfather was one of the early white settlers in 1904, I only lived in Kenya until I was 12 — about the time Lando was leaving school and just before Independence, so of course, I only had childish views of my homeland.

    As a child, my father having died in Nakuru when I was six, my mother kept some of the horrors from us. I learnt so much from this book that no one had told me. I was astonished to find you had a TV, albeit black and white before Independence. We had no TV up country and I remember only seeing any news on the Pathe news in the cinemas, and that was a real treat,, as the nearest cinema was Nakuru.

    This book was a real eye-opener. It showed the differences in all our cultures. I can see how the Goans, Sikhs, Hindus, Ismailies, and Africans feel as they did towards the whites. I do feel my parents’ generation must have told us how it was, but it didn’t stop me from playing with the totos on the golf course and adoring our “boy” who looked after the house, etc. and having a great deal of respect for our syce. I suppose my life up in the Highlands was a very cocooned, cosy life where the real life in Nairobi passed me by. Can’t wait to read the next book.

  9. :

    Excellent book about Kenyan history as well as a very…

    Excellent book about Kenyan history as well as a very interesting story. Well done Braz Menezes for writing a wonderful book. This book has the perfect balance of historical information and entertainment. I am from Kenya and I can assure very few books are as good as this. Worth every penny!

  10. :

    It is with real excitement that I am writing this email to you. Just got hold of your book ” Just Matata” and could not stop reading until I had finished. The tales brought so many memories of my childhood days. I love the way you have narrated them.

  11. :

    Just Matata: Sin, Saints and Settlers starts in Goa (at that time, Portuguese India). Chico Menezes heads off to a job in Mozambique, but ends up in Mombasa, Kenya, where he gets a job in a bank. He goes back to Goa to find a wife and meets the beautiful Anja. They settle in Nairobi where they bring up their family.

    The narrator of the book is their eldest son, (Or)lando. He was born the same year as me and talks about Kenya in the days of WWII and later. I know the places he’s talking about and remember the happenings, but have learned so much. For example, the discimination against the non-whites. We had so many Goan friends that I didn’t realize even existed. This is treated with great sensitivity and no trace of bitterness on the author’s part.

    A mention is made of the Goans’ love to party and that takes me back to the many parties held with our Goan friends at my parents’ house! For those who don’t know East Africa, you will learn so much and I’m sure it will instill in you a desire to visit that beautiful country.

    When Lando is about 11 years old, his father decides to send him to boarding school in Goa, at St. Joseph’s. He is not happy there, is always hungry, and works out a plan to escape with a friend. He does, however, learn to love Goa, and I really enjoyed the descriptions of the people, the way of life and the flora and fauna. I have added it to my list of the places I must visit before I die!

    Before Lando can effect his escape from school, his parents bring him back to Kenya. I grew to love Lando. He takes everything in stride and his comments are both insightful and amusing. The way Menezes writes is very easy to read and one learns much about the history of both countries.

    The book ends at the beginning of the 1950s with the rumblings of trouble brewing — the Mau Mau Rebellion. I look forward to reading the second book, More Matata: Love after the Mau Mau and how Lando copes in his older years.

    I can thoroughly recommend Just Matata and am sure the next two books of the trilogy will be equally good!

  12. :

    Congratulations on a wonderful book, Braz. I took it to Muskoka and read it avidly. A sweeping kaleidoscopic saga with impending, unsettling uncertainties foreshadowed, even as interesting events unfold at personal and societal levels.

    The whiff of decaying colonial empires hangs over everything and the people charged with administering and running them for the lords of creation were left to fend for themselves on two continents.

  13. :

    It was wonderful reading your book “Just Matata”. In fact it’s been like a holiday to Africa in another era ever since attending your book launch. I myself am a sailor visiting various places and love learning about Goa and Goans. I feel so small next to the Goans who left our shores in search of a better future where nothing was certain centuries ago.
    Hats off to them and to you for keeping their times alive through our generation. Well written and thank You.

  14. :

    This book is great fun to read especially because it applied to most of my parents life and part of mine. It brings back many memories especially because of the language used and a unique perspective on life of expats from Goa to East Africa. The book was delivered in perfect condition and on time.

  15. :

    I finally made time to finish your fabulous book and really loved it. While reading, I so often thought about your book interview* on Liquid Lunch, and your wonderful presentation of the coco de mer, cashew painting and other visuals to bring your book to life.

    Bravo, Braz!! Now you have to finish the trilogy – and you will!

  16. :

    I have finished reading “Just Matata”. A truly impressive book with masterful descriptions and a quirky humour. Your prose and composition are exceptional.

    The book is far more than just a novel, but rather a great intuition between the lines…a deep understanding of the philosophy of life. Really enjoyed it. With love and admiration from Rodney in far off Scotland.

    (British Settler in Kenya, 1939-64, UK)

  17. :

    Your Just Matata – Sin, Saints and Settlers is a delightful and informative read. You give the story plenty of room to breathe and take your time to develop the story. So the reader gets a clear sense of the places and the relationships you paint in great detail. The light you shine on the cultural history of Kenya and Goa makes some of it more understandable, from the religious issues of caste and the Catholic Church’s role in enabling it to continue, to the racial segregation and even hatred in Kenya, and the evolution from dependence to independence (of the countries as well as young Lando the narrator).

    Congratulations! And thank you for adding to the growing narrative of Goans in Africa, told to us. Your story had a strong resonance. I grew up in Tanzania, spent close to two years in a boarding school in Goa, returned to Nairobi for a year, then unexpectedly left for Canada with my family.

    After reading your book, I felt intimidated about getting on with my own writing, but you also inspired me to start writing….again….and found yet another way to tell the story. I’d love to talk with you sometime and look forward to reading more about Lando’s adventures.

  18. :

    I was going to hold on until I started my holiday, but I couldn’t resist opening the first page, and then the next and the next, until I’ve done one chapter already. I am completely captivated.

    I love your book and I think I’m going to get through it before I even start my vacation.

    Congratulations on this success.

  19. :

    Just finished the book. It is great and an important historical work that I will pass down to my daughters and in time, to my grandkids.

    I passed through similar boarding experiences but did not manage to escape. I longed for my family but made the best of the situation.

    My case was a bit better as I was protected by the Jesuits maybe because of the gifts of pigs that my Mum arranged to have sent to the priests. My Mum also paid extra for me to have an egg (in another room) otherwise it was weak tea & bread in the morning.

    Well done.

  20. :

    I finished reading Just Matata last night. It is a very, very readable book. It tells a good story, within which are other stories. It has a likeable protagonist. It gives us a range of characters, a lot of information about Kenya and Goa (the people, the culture, the land) and has humour. And it has surprises (such as the way Lando got out of Goa).

    I told you earlier that there were areas where I expected more to be said. For example, Lando does not spend any time on what the conditions were in Kenya during the war. Of course this can be explained by the fact that Lando is telling the story and was quite young at that time (although he is telling the whole story later) and he is getting more mature as he goes along (such as the way he hatches the scheme of writing to his parents that he has decided to join the seminary so they decide to take him out of school and take him back to Kenya). But a lot depends on what happens in parts 2 and 3. I expect something will be said about Mau Mau and its impact: it seems we are being prepared for it when Lando gets back to Kenya. If you handle this well, my earlier comment about there being gaps will not be valid.

    You are really a good storyteller. You have a feel for the land and the people (as individuals and as part of groups–ethnicities, castes) Lando meets. You are able to sum up history and the way it figures in the presence in a very interesting way in a few pages (eg what is said about caste).

    The landscape and towns you describe are partly familiar to me but not entirely so because my experience is essentially in Uganda (specifically Entebbe, my hometown: I drew a lot from Entebbe in my two novels). So you filled in details for me that I was interested in because I have been to Mombasa, Nairobi, Kisumu and I have travelled by train). You are good at providing what is called by some literary critics “the significant detail”. When you mention things, fauna and flora and animals, you give us details in a way that holds our attention.

    The word “matata” has many meanings as used in East Africa, and all the meanings work about and in the novel.

    As far as I have read, you have the makings of a good novelist. I am impressed at how much you know, at how much I learned from the novel.

    This is my first response. I need to think about the novel and re-read it before I can write a review. However, if you think what I say is useful, you may place my response on-line.

  21. :

    ‘Just Matata’ is causing me matata! I must tell you that I am really enjoying reading it, you have a way of getting your reader on your side… but at the same time reading it has started me on a journey of memories I had buried decades ago.

    I am enjoying ‘Just Matata’ but for the first time a book has opened a locked cupboard inside my head.

    Like everyone I know, I have been so busy the last 6 decades, I’ve never looked back, and your book is making me stop and do just this.

    I find that I telephone my children and tell them stories of my life as a child, and when they receive their copies of ‘Just Matata’ shortly I think they will begin to understand why my memories are coming back.

    So thank you for this journey I am making. As I read your book, I am getting back in touch with my Goan-ness and my Kenyan-ness, both have been on a back-burner for too long.

  22. :

    Just Marvelous

    “Just Matata” is an excellent coming-of-age novel. It tells the story of a young boy growing up in Kenya with his Goan parents and sibling after World War II, and it is marvellously evocative of the time and place. Menezes makes his world come alive and provides vivid descriptions of both Kenya and Goa (the Portuguese colony in Africa where Lando’s parents were born). His protagonist, Lando, is a lovable and believable character and I really felt myself drawn into his world. The novel blends well the exotic (man-eating lions! spices! coconuts!) and the mundane (hooking up a crystal radio set, meeting new friends), and has both comedy (the plot to escape St. Joseph’s School is delicious reading) and pathos. I highly recommend this book.

  23. :

    Tales full of magic

    This book contains tales full of magic, the fictional memoir of a boy growing up in mid-century British Nairobi and Portuguese Goa. Matata conveys the rich sense of adventure of young Lando learning about his roots through contact with real and imagined people of his two homelands, as he is brought up in Africa and travels to India for a chaotic and sometimes-harsh schooling by Jesuit priests.

    Brought up in the Catholic traditions of a far-distant motherland, and in a struggling, aspiring middle-class household, young Lando is assailed by discoveries of love and friendship, financial chicanery, racism and the inequalities of colonial life, religion and sin. The sounds, smells and tastes of Africa and South Asia, skillfully conveyed by author Braz Menezes, reach out to heighten our own sense of the boy’s wonder and discovery of two contrasting continents.

    The book, always interesting and – thank goodness – not conventional, proved to be a real page-turner. I loved it, not least the author’s quiet sense of humour. I am greatly looking forward to the sequel.

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