Monday, March 2, 2020

Why there is no official recognition of Seraphino Antao in Mombasa

Seraphino Antao trainings on the sands of a Mombasa beach with coach Ray Batchelor

Why Mombasa does not raise
 a totem in Seraphino’s name

Over the past few decades supporters and fans of the only Kenyan to win a sprint double, the late Seraphino Antao, at the Commonwealth Games in Perth in 1962, has failed in repeated attempts to get the city fathers and politicians in Mombasa to raise a permanent memorial to its most illustrious son. Another Goan, who was virtually the godfather of the Kenya coast having helped many, many people, is another who deserves recognition. I hope I am wrong, but I doubt if any recognition will be forthcoming.

I have lent my support to these voices and I tried speaking to various people in Nairobi, but my words always fell on deaf ears, except one voice and he would not go on record. He told me that “it is unlikely that any Goan will see his or her name gracing any Mombasa street sign. There are fewer than 200 full-time Goans left scattered along the Kenya Coast and Mombasa. Where their political influence is non-existent or the at the best peripheral, their economic importance remains limited.

“It is not a growing community it is a diminishing community. In a few decades, there may not be anyone around to recognize the names of past heroes.” There are approximately 80 regular Goan parishioners at the iconic Holy Ghost Cathedral.

From Mombasa, I understand that the elderly members of the Goan community had concerns about certain aspects of Antao’s life in the UK. (Although my sources is most reliable and an authority on Mombasa affairs. I would find it difficult believe any Goan would spike any effort to raise a permanent recognition of Antao's achievement at the Coast and around the world.)

On the other hand, there is a certain cynicism about names on Mombasa streets and, more particularly, those of politicians in Mombasa in general. According to one observer:  One day they will name a street after a famous historical figure or prominent coast personality … and the next day it is re-named after a rival faction’s “flavour-of-the-month”.

“The main thoroughfare through the Nyali suburb on the Mombasa North Coast was recently renamed Fidel Odinga Street. Fidel was a young son of the political star Raila Odinga.

“When asked to justify Fidel’s name on the Nyali street sign, one comment was ‘Fidel was a big supporter of local commerce … the Mombasa hard drugs industry.’”

I do not wish to speak ill of the dead, however, Fidel was said to have died of a heroin overdose. RIP in any case.

Like Fidel, I think any thoughts of Mombasa recognizing Antao are also dead. Shame on all those petty decision-makers in Mombasa.

Pio Gama Pinto and Campos Ribeiro were the only two Goan names I recognised in Nairobi.

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