Mubina Kirmani has produced a story rarely told about Kenya. She highlights Indian-Kenyans, a marginal community that has been important in the economy of the country. The central characters in this charming picture book are Savita, an Indian-Kenyan and Njeri, a Black Kenyan. Young Savita is returning to Kenya in a dhow (sailing ship) with her mother and baby brother after visiting relatives in India. Throughout the month long journey across the Indian Ocean, Savita cradles a “bundle” that Mother says must not be opened until she gets home. When Savita arrives in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa, her dad and friend Njeri are waiting for her. At home Savita and Njeri watch as mother opens the “bundle” (which contains spices). Together they prepare muhogo wa nazi (cassava cooked with coconut milk).
The book opens with a general map that highlights India and Kenya and charts Savita’s journey across the Indian Ocean. Brief glimpses of Mombasa are provided particularly the historic district with its narrow streets and the monumental elephant tusks that are a signature feature of Mombasa. Kirmani weaves songs and languages from India and Kenya into the story and the Illustrations by Tony Siemans illuminate the multicultural character of coastal Kenya i .e. Swahili /Islamic /Indian. Questions at the end of the book will help the reader to understand the main themes in the book and its multicultural aspects. Highly Recommended
Reviewed by: Patricia Kuntz, Independent Scholar and Anne Waliaula, University of Wisconsin
Published in Africa Access Review (April 6, 2014)
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