MONSOON is a seasonal wind which brings heavy rainfall and is important for agriculture and trade. Between November and February, the wind carries trade ships, known as dhows, from the west coast of India to the Arabian Gulf and East Africa. Between April and September, the monsoon blows in the opposite direction carrying the dhows from Africa to India.


DHOWS are wooden sailing boats which have traded across the Arabian Sea for 2,000 years.

VASCO DA GAMA (c.1460 to 1524)

VASCO DA GAMA (c.1460 to 1524)  was a Portuguese explorer, who was the first European to sail the sea route to India. This opened the way for a succession of European colonial powers in India. Some historical sources say that on his way to India he took a pilot of Gujarati origin named Kanji Malam, who he met in the Kenyan seaport of Malindi in 1498.


INDENTURED LABOURERS  were workers who were forced to move to an often far-away region or country in order to be employed on large industrial or agricultural projects. In the British colonies or protectorates in Africa, indentured labour was especially used to build railways, so that raw materials could be moved from the interior to ports on the coast. Many of the labourers were recruited from India and Gujaratis were often used as supervisors, accountants or caterers.


KALA PANI means black water in Hindi and Gujarati and is used to describe the near endless and dangerous Indian Ocean. Higher caste Hindu priests used the term to create a fear of crossing to the ‘unholy’ land. Some of the first Indian seafarers and settlers in Africa were therefore from the Muslim communities, such as Boharas and Ismailis from Gujarat and, then independent, Kutch.


MOHANDAS ‘MAHATMA’ GANDHI was the leader of the Indian independence struggle against colonial rule. He lived from 1869 to 1948 and inspired non-violent movements around the world. He grew up in coastal Gujarat and belonged to a Gujarati merchant family. While his role in the independence struggle of India is well known, his early life as a lawyer and supporter of the rights of non-white people against the Apartheid system in South Africa is nearly forgotten. It was here in 1914, that the honorific title ‘Mahatma’, meaning the great soul, was bestowed on him.


APARTHEID  was the term for the system of institutionalised racial discrimination and segregation in South Africa, implemented by the white rulers against the majority population. The system was partly supported by the people of Indian origin because they were given some privileges over the Black majority population, especially in education and business. It was also seen as a way of protecting their own culture and religions and, for some, perpetuated the Indian caste system. Aspects of the system were also practiced in the British colonies of Africa, as the three-tier-system.


HANDICRAFTS  are a rich tradition in Gujarat, influenced by both the homeland and outside cultures. Some of the handicrafts developed in Gujarat are sari weaving, embroidery, cloth dyeing, leather work, block printing, inlay work, pottery, wood carving, jewellery making, beadwork and gold embroidery, known as zari. These techniques and designs were taken to Africa by the craftspeople of Gujarat. For instance, the colourful traditional East African printed cotton cloth kanga was influenced by designs from India. Even today, kanga with African designs are produced in India to be sold on the African market.


DESH  is a nostalgic term used by Gujaratis living outside of India, to describe their motherland.


THE THREE-TIER-SYSTEM  was the social structure imposed on many African colonies. The white colonial rulers were the top layer, the Indians formed the middle group and the black African majority population was the bottom layer. The derogatory term ‘brown wedge’, was also used to describe the middle layer.


KADIA  comes from the Gujarati language word ‘kala’, meaning black, and was used by Indians as a derogatory term, to describe the people in Africa.


INTEGRATION  was difficult to achieve for Indians living in colonial Africa, because of the three-tier-system which separated them from both the white and indigenous black communities. In Britain, Gujaratis have injected new life into urban areas by opening corner-shops, creating new businesses providing employment and becoming high educational achievers. This successful integration into British society is often a source of pride for Gujaratis and a success story for the whole community.


DUAL MINORITY  is a term used to describe the Indians who moved from Africa to the UK because they were a minority in both places.


CORNER-SHOPS  were one way in which Gujarati people could earn a living after they arrived in Britain. These small grocery, stationary and hardware shops were similar to the dukawallah shops in Africa. As shops in 1960s Britain were closed at the weekend and evenings, these 24/7 corner-shops became a new and important feature serving the local community in our towns and cities.


WAHINDI is the Swahili word for people of Indian origin.


DUKAWALLAH  are the Indians who moved to Africa and owned shops along the railway lines & roads and in the Indian Bazaar in the colonial towns. These settlers chose to move to Africa, either to escape poverty in India or attracted by the opportunity to make a living in the British colonies. Eventually, these small grocery and hardware shops became an important economic institution, serving Indians and the local black population alike. The word is similar in the Gujarati language (dukan) and Swahili (duka).


THE INDIAN BAZAAR  is the market area in any colonial town in Africa with mainly Indian shopkeepers, known as dukawallah.


FESTIVALS are community celebrations and have their origin in the agricultural cycle and religious events. Some of the important festivals for Gujaratis are Diwali, Navaratri, Muharram and Eid. The use of Gujarati costume, music & dance, food, and language, distinguish them from the festivals of other Indian communities.


SUGAR MILLS  process sugar cane in order to produce sugar. Most sugar mills in East Africa were established and run by Gujaratis.


PHILANTHROPY  is important to Gujaratis, who created charitable organisations, established schools and ran hospitals during their Yatra.


THE GUJARATI LANGUAGE  belongs to the north Indian language group and today is the state language of the Indian state of Gujarat. Today, there are over 60 million Gujarati speakers in India and 11 million outside the country. Gujarati was the common language used between most Indian people in Africa. Gujarati was also the first language of the leader of Indian independence, 'Mahatma' Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, as well as that of the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.


DOUBLE BURDEN  refers to the experience of many Indian women who, after leaving Africa where they were used to having domestic help and not having to work, found they had to work and look after their family to make ends meet in Britain.


THE GRUNWICK STRIKE   was conducted by workers at the Grunwick Film Processing plant in Willesden, London. In 1976 they went on strike against the long hours, low wages, pay inequalities and racism at the factory. Most of the workers were female and Indians from Africa, who the press dubbed ‘strikers in sari’. This was the first ever strike of non-white workers and lasted for two years, ending in success. It was led by Jayaben Desai, who was herself a Gujarati immigrant from East Africa.


SWAHILI  is both an African language and term for the people from East Africa, especially those living along the coast. Swahili people and their cultures have mixed with, and been influenced by, travellers from India, Arabia and the Far East for thousands of years. The language is based on Bantu influenced by Arabic. Although most East Africans have their own indigenous first language, Swahili is widely spoken along the East African coast and many Gujarati people were also fluent in this language.


THE KENYA-UGANDA RAILWAY LINE was the most important railway line connecting the coast of East Africa to the interior of the continent. Construction started from the port town of Mombasa in 1896. It reached Nairobi in 1899, before continuing across the Nile and Lake Victoria to its terminus at the Ugandan capital of Kampala, by 1903. It is estimated that around 2,500 workers, mainly indentured labourers from India, lost their lives on this difficult task. The indigenous African people called the railway an ‘iron snake’ a synonym for the invasion of the colonial powers onto their land.


MOMBASA  began as a port town in present-day Kenya. It specialised in ivory, millet, coconuts, spices, and gold and had ancient trade links with Gujarat. From the 19th century, it was the first port of arrival for incoming travelers from India and was an important railway hub for people and goods.


THE RACE RELATIONS ACT 1968  was a UK Act of Parliament to counteract racism. It made it illegal to refuse housing, employment, or public services to a person on the grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origins. It also created the Community Relations Commission to promote 'harmonious community relations’. The act was a direct reaction by parliament to concerns about racism in Britain at that time.


THE COMMONWEALTH IMMIGRATION ACT 1968  was a UK Act of Parliament denying the right of entry to citizens of the former colonies. The UK feared that hundreds of thousands of African Indians would enter the UK as a result of the Africanisation policy of the newly independent nations in Africa.


RACISM  is prejudice and discrimination based on a person’s race or ethnicity. The Indian community were at the receiving end of racism from the Apartheid regime in South Africa and from the three-tier-system in colonial East Africa. During and after African independence, some of the black rulers stirred-up racism against the Indian minority population. After their expulsion from East Africa, Gujaratis experienced racism in the UK, despite being British citizens.


PASSENGER INDIANS  chose to make the difficult journey by dhow across the Arabian Sea, to start a new life in Africa. Often facing famine and poverty in Gujarat, many chose to set up shops to serve the Indian and local black communities in Africa.


COOLIES   was a derogatory term used by the British for the Indian indentured labourers who built the railway lines.


TWICE MIGRANTS  refers to Gujaratis and other Indians who left India for Africa and were then forced to leave the newly independent African nations because of the policy of Africanisation. The Kenyan-born Gujarati author Bahadur Tejani captured the impact of this process, when he wrote “We came here with empty hands, and leave with empty hearts”.


EAST INDIA COMPANY  was first founded in 1600, to control trade with South, Southeast and East Asia. The main goods traded were spices, cotton, silk, tea and opium. From the 1740s, it fought wars against local rulers and other foreign powers, eventually controlling much of India on behalf of the British government. After the passing of the Government of India Act in 1858, the company’s power declined and it was dissolved in 1874.


COLONIALISM  is a system of control over a territory, which includes exploitation and government of the indigenous people. After Vasco da Gama opened a sea route from Europe to India, Portuguese, Dutch and British trading companies, such as The East India Company, colonised India. The East India Company effectively ruled over large parts of India from 1757, followed by a period of direct rule by the British Government from 1858. This lasted until India achieved independence in 1947. As Britain also had colonies in Africa, this led to the first mass emigration of indentured labourers from India to Africa and of people from Gujarat, who largely migrated as passenger Indians.


COTTON PRODUCTION & TRADE  was the single most important trade between India, especially Gujarat, and the East Coast of Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. It had begun by the 13th century and continued well into the 19th century. Indian cotton was known for the high standard of processes such as spinning, weaving, dyeing, printing, and painting. One major incentive to establish the British East India Company in the 17th century was to control the lucrative cotton trade. From the 19th century onwards British cotton products replaced most of Gujarat’s production. This caused extreme hardship and unemployment in India. .


GUJARAT  is situated in North-West India along the western coast, which is the reason for its long history of trade across the Arabian Sea. It consists of five major geographical regions. North Gujarat is a mountainous and desert region bordering Rajasthan, while Kutch has a border with Pakistan. The Saurasthra Peninsula has a long coast with the Arabian Sea to the west, while the area around Ahmedabad & Vadodara lies inland bordering Madhya Pradesh. Below these is South Gujarat, which borders the Indian state of Mahrashtra. The main language is Gujarati, along with Hindi, Marathi, Urdu, Kutchi, and tribal languages.


AFRICANISATION  was the policy of some African countries following independence in order to increase the number of black Africans working in government and business. The policy was achieved through brutality, discrimination and, in extreme cases, expulsion, with the aim of dispossessing the former colonial citizens, including many Indians, of their property, land and businesses.


EXPULSION  was the process of forcing Indians, many of whom were born in Africa, out of the newly independent countries in Africa. Although this was sometimes achieved through discrimination, an extreme example was seen in 1972, when Idi Amin Dada ordered all Indians to leave Uganda within 90 days.


IDI AMIN DADA   After the independence of Uganda Idi Amin Dada (1925 – 2003), was the commander of the Ugandan army. In 1971, he seized power in a coup and ruled Uganda until 1979. During this period, he was a ruthless and brutal dictator, who killed hundreds of thousands of Ugandan people. In August 1972 he ordered the expulsion of Uganda’s Indian population within 90 days. This process included taking over of their land, possessions and businesses. Amin justified this with the need to Africanise his country.>


INDEPENDENCE  INDEPENDENCE from British rule was achieved by India in 1947 and, by 1968, almost all of the British colonies in Africa achieved independence. At this time, most of the Indian population in Africa, including the people who were born and brought up there, held British citizenship. Very few supported the independence movements led by the black population, due to concerns over their own futures.


THE COLD WAR  dominated global politics from the end of the Second World War in 1945, until the 1990s. The conflict between the USA and the Soviet Union influenced the politics of many African nations following independence. Indians living in these countries often became the scapegoats, especially in those nations which sided with the Soviet Union. They suffered racism and their property, land, and businesses were seized as part of the policy of Africanisation.


AFRICAN NATIONALISM  was the movement against the colonial powers, which led to the independence of the African nations.