by Braz Menezes
Just Matata Reviews

[Review] Racial Segregation, Caste, Class and Religion in an Unputdownable Historical Memoir

Mervyn Maciel is the author of Bwana Karani.

Matata Images: Fishermen

Matata Images: Fishermen

Retired architect-turned author, Braz Menezes, has done a magnificent job in producing a first-class novel Just Matata.

One doesn’t have to have lived in Kenya or Goa to enjoy the book, but if, like me, you have, the book will mean so much more. It will resonate strongly with your own life in those two countries. So much of what the author has written could be our very own story, a story that perhaps, some of us may have dreamt of writing but never got down to. In this respect, Menezes has done us all a great service.

For the younger generation of Goans, the book will at once reveal the never-to-be-experienced-again life that those of my vintage and others enjoyed in colonial Kenya; in many respects, a life of luxury. But life was not without its ugly side — the race barriers between the different communities in Kenya and, much to our shame, the home-grown caste system that we “exported” to our adopted homes in the colonies. All these figure in the author’s narrative, including the social life among Goans in Kenya, albeit in caste-separated clubs.

Who, at a very early age would want to be separated from one’s parents and find oneself in a boarding school in far-off Goa, devoid of the family and friends one had grown up with in Kenya?

This however, was the status quo at the time, and Lando, the hero of the novel, eventually finds himself at St. Joseph’s School in Arpora, an experience he describes in some detail in the book. Absence, certainly “makes the heart grow fonder” as can be seen from the exchange of warm letters between Lando and his older sister, Linda.

For me personally, there is certain poignancy about Menezes’ novel, as my parents, who were victims of the ill-fated S.S. TILAWA during World War II, feature in its pages.

To say that I enjoyed the book immensely would be an understatement. If, like me, you have spent your early childhood in Kenya, Menezes Just Matata takes you on a free trip down memory lane. A book I just couldn’t put down and which I feel those of us who were once “WaGoa wa Kenya” will thoroughly enjoy.