ISBN 9789966712301
Pages 586
Dimensions 229 x 152 mm
Published 2006
Publisher Zand Graphics, Kenya
Format Paperback

Unquiet. The Life and Times of Makhan Singh

by Zarina Patel

Makham Singh (-1973) was an Indian settler in Kenya, who became a founding father of the trade union movement, and a leading opponent of the colonial state. He is distinguished by his consciously multi-racialist politics and his indomitable spirit. Ahead of his times, Singh was extraordinarily immune from colour prejudice and religious intolerance. He refused to accept a trade union movement segregated by race and the colonial apartheid that reinforced a hierarchy of races between black Africans, Asians and whites in such humiliating fashion. Instead, he demonstrated that the liberation of Asians and Africans were inextricably linked, and that imperialism and colonialism are the enemies of all peoples, and should be met with non-violent resistance. These stances gained him remarkable popularity amongst the ordinary people.

The author explores her subject’s childhood in India, his life outside his political concerns, the evolution of his politics, personality, and his experiences in detention. The research documents a hitherto un-researched archive of Singh’s private papers, housed at the University of Nairobi. The primary source material, evidenced throughout the work, dates from 1927. It includes the subject’s correspondence, poetry, press cutting, statements, hand-written notes, campaign posters and photographs. The project took the author further afield – to the northern border of India in Pakistan where Singh grew up; to Delhi, Jalhandar and Amritsar; and to Punjabi language sources.

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Reviews

‘This wonderful account…reminds us why it is critically important for Asians and Africans to tell their own stories.’

Kenya Human Rights Commission

“...an accomplishment in the use of the archive to construct a biography. Patel relies on thousands of archival records in Kenya and India from the precolonial to contemporary times...”

“...[offers] an alternative viewpoint on the identity of postcolonial Kenya...”

“...it destabilises the foundations on which modern Kenya’s historiography is constructed by raising questions about the place of both race and trade union activism in the country.”

social dynamics.pdf — PDF document, 1207Kb
Social Dynamics' Journal of African Studies, University of Cape Town
About the Author

Zarina Patel

Zarina Patel is a writer, artist, human rights and race relations activist, environmentalist and campaigner for social justice. Her role is saving the Jeevanjee Gardens in Nairobi from bulldozing and privatisation provided the inspiration for this book. She is a leading authority on Kenyan South Asian history, and editor of the journal Awaaz, which focuses on South Asian history and culture in the national context.

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