Zarina Patel is a Kenyan South Asian woman, who not only struggled against the oppression faced by fellow women, but who was also involved in other movements, above and underground, which fought against injustice. She has worked with people from different walks of life; across cultures, gender, generation, religion and region, ethnicities and races.

Zarina has not led the stereotypical life of a South Asian woman.  She has followed in the footsteps of Makhan Singh, the father of trade unionism in Kenya; Manilal Desai who worked closely with Harry Thuku in the anti-colonial struggles and her grandfather, Alibhai Mulla Jeevanjee, who bestowed Jeevanjee Gardens to Nairobians. She has authored the biographies of all three personalities as well as the work of South Asian journalists in The In Between World of Kenya’s Media.

She is the Managing Editor of AwaaZ magazine that started with recording the lives of East African heroes of South Asian descent, and now focuses on minority and diversity issues. AwaaZ is now in its eighteenth year of publication and has the SAMOSA Festival as its cultural arm.

Although she was born and raised in an upper middle class family, she rejected opulence and sought personal liberty and fulfillment by identifying with multi-ethnic and multi-racial groups that were struggling for human rights and freedom from exploitation and domination. She not only liberated herself from the shackles of patriarchal Asian society, but also interacted with Kenyans of similar character and thinking.

Zarina’s fight for women, her struggles against a corrupt Bohra priesthood, fruitful efforts to save Jeevanjee Gardens from land grabbers, to working with the organization Kikuyus for Change and the  Kenyan Constitution Review process and being one of the founder members of the Kenya Asian Forum – are a few illustrations of her diverse contributions to post-independence Kenya.

She understood the connection between freedom of creative expression and the struggles for democratic space and the concomitant benefits of conscientising the public of the prevailing social, political, cultural, global, and economic circumstances.

Other books by Zarina Patel

Challenge to Colonialism – The struggle by Alibhai Mulla Jeevanjee for Equal Rights in Kenya
Unquiet – Life and Times of Makhan Singh
Stormy Petrel – Manilal Ambalal Desai

Book about Zarina

Zarina Patel – The Indomitable Spirit by George Gona

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  • The In-Between World of Kenya’s Media: South Asian Journalism, 1900-1992

    At the turn of the twentieth century, the print media in India was highly developed and very active in the country’s liberation struggle. Hence South Asian migrants who came to Kenya were well aware of the importance of the press in advancing the anti-colonial campaign. The first Indian-owned newspaper in Kenya was the African Standard which Alibhai Mulla Jeevanjee established in 1901 in his fight for equal rights. That paper continues to serve Kenyans today as The Standard.

    Nationalist Indians started several newspapers but were dogged by financial constraints, a factor used by the colonial authorities to close down the publications. The Indian-owned newspapers were bi-lingual and always had a section in English; thus exposing the colonial injustices they berated to both a national as well as international audience – a major, major vexation to the colonial authorities. In addition the Indians made their printing presses available to African journalists and editors who were barred, by a colonial law, from establishing their own.

    The editor of the Colonial Times, G L Vidyarthi, was the first Kenyan to be jailed, in 1945, for sedition – his family today continues to be involved in the printing industry. After independence in 1963, the media scene greatly expanded and South Asian journalists ventured into print, photo, radio and TV. They played a vital role in presenting an Afro-centric, as opposed to a hitherto Euro-centric and colonial, view of Kenya and the continent. This was particularly so in the first decade of uhuru when African journalists were still finding their footing.

    The South Asian journalists were on friendly terms with the Africans and at ease visiting their areas of work and residence. This access made it possible for them to report on the most relevant and up-to-date information and photo opportunities that were ‘out of bounds’ to their white competitors/colleagues.

    However, the growing anti-Asian sentiments in Kenya and Idi Amin’s expulsion of the Asians in Uganda in 1972 had a destabilizing effect on the community; and by the 1980s most of the South Asian journalists had emigrated to ‘safer’ pastures. The author was able to contact over sixty of them, including families of the deceased journalists, and collect their self-penned stories to present a fascinating and informative panorama of South Asian journalism in the 20th century.

    CAD $ 26.00
  • Citizenship, Identity and Belonging in Kenya

    Every couple of years, an inspired group of people, led by the editors of AwaaZ Magazine (, organise a festival in Nairobi, Kenya, that goes by the name ‘SAMOSA’—South Asian Mosaic of Society and the Arts— bringing together different communities through art, music, dance, film and discussions. In 2016, during the 7th biennial event, included was a colloquium organised in collaboration with the Department of Literature of the University of Nairobi. This unique collection of essays considers the issues of citizenship, identity and belonging in Kenya through an examination of literature, film, music, and theatre, providing reflections on women, statelessness and refugees.

    A pleasant quick read on a complex subject of citizenship, identity and belonging. Ignites an interest in these issues as expounded in the arts and film. —Dr George Gona, Senior Lecturer, Department of History and Archaeology, University of Nairobi.

    This excellent compilation of papers by leading Kenyan academics, writers, public intellectuals and practitioners of various forms of art focuses on issues of citizenship, identity and belonging in literature, film, music and theatre. They cover a vast range of subjects that tell the story of Kenya’s past and present. —Ramnik Shah- Kenyan ex-lawyer who writes on migration and diaspora related subjects.