Search This Blog


One of East Africa's outstanding, a multi-talented sportsman, Johnny Lobo who is 93, looks back on a cricketing career
that can only be described as brilliant. He was also one of
the most outstanding soccer goalkeepers, a stalwart of the
wonderful Nairobi Heroes team for many, many years.
There were three outstanding Goan cricketers in Kenya:
C.M. Gracias, Blaise D'Cunha, Johnny Lobo.

Johnny Lobo

Memories of a brilliant cricketer


The Early Years – My family’s Move to Kenya

It was my father’s brother-in-law S.R. Rodrigues who was the first pioneer from our family who ventured out of Goa and crossed the Indian Ocean on a dhow with the Arab traders to Mombasa in 1895. Later he was instrumental in convincing my father Evaristo Lobo, that he could get him a well-paid Government job in Kenya. My father agreed and came over on a steamer in 1911 and began working. A few years later my father got extremely sick and returned to Goa. When he had recovered and was still in Goa, as was typical in those days a proposal arrived from my mother’s family Benjamin Mendes from Aldona for their daughter Maria Mendes. My father married my mother in 1918 and returned to Kenya. My siblings were born shortly after Joseph 1919, Victor 1921, Francis 1923, Eulalia 1925 and Clara 1929. I was the 5th child born on December 27th, 1927. We grew up in Ngara in the staff housing that was built by the British rulers for Goan and Indian government staff, it was known as the Government Quarters neighbourhood. My 3 older brothers were sent to study at St. Stanislaus’ Bombay and were active sports players at school, while my sisters and I attended Dr Ribeiro Goan School (DRGS) in Parklands. It was at this school where my love of all sports began.


Dr Ribeiro Goan School and Ngara Quarter Neighbourhood – The foundation

Each day at our half-hour break, the boys would race out of the class to grab the cricket bat, because as we had observed the batter played on till he was bowled out. The excitement and enthusiasm for the game were beginning to take hold in each of us as young boys and I even remember a time when some Goan politics kicked in among the teachers and they left the school, we decided to make the most of the free periods to play our game. This is when we started to play actual matches, eleven players on each side, some of the names I remember are Philip Gracias, Alex and Rui Rodrigues, Willie Paes, Marcus Braganza, Monty D’Sa, Alan D’Cunha and off course myself. Incredibly our first match lasted 3 months, but in those 3 months, we continued to get better.

Our passion for the game continued even after the bell rang to end our day at school. As many of my classmates also lived in my neighbourhood, we would race home and play daily from 4-6 in the evening, the neighbourhood boys included Maurice and Philip Gracias, Batu and Dennis Noronha, Marcus and Henry Braganza, Alu Mendonca and Silu Fernandes.

Building on the newfound confidence we decided to play our first test match against the Government Indian School (GIS) on matting. It was a remarkable result because we not only won the match, but I also scored my first century in the game. Boosted by this win we went on to play our next match against the Prince of Wales school and thanks to a fine inning by Monty D’Sa of 50 runs with good support from Alan D’Cunha of 30 runs, we won that game too. Another impressive victory of my own, for DRGS, was when I scored 2 centuries against Mombasa Goan School 110 and Allidini Visram School 105.


The Railway Goan Institute (R.G.I.) – Building on the foundation

My uncle Jack Mendes (my mother’s brother), who captained the R.G.I. on weekends would often take me, then just a young boy of 11years to watch the games. Being the captain of the team and my uncle, if a player did not show up, he would ask me to stand in for that player. This opportunity tremendously improved my game as I played with young men who were more experienced in the game than I was.

In the late 1940s, having left school, I officially began playing for R.G.I and our regular side included Maurice Gracias, Adolf D’Mello, C. Ferrao, Batu Noronha, Piety Fernandes, Henry D’souza, Willie Paes, Donald Gonsalves, Ruben Rebello, Darrell Carvalho, Sydney Machado, Teddy Gomes and Cecil Fonseca. Maurice Gracias was a brilliant cricketer who dominated on the R.G.I. side for several years. He was educated at the Government Indian School and was the first Goan to represent the Asians against the Europeans. He retired from cricket 2 seasons after I joined. While on the team I scored a few centuries most notably against the Aga Khan Club where I scored 130 runs and Nairobi Club where I scored 133 runs.

The Cricket season in Nairobi started in October and ended in March. In those 6 months, every Sunday we enjoyed many matches between clubs. The sports secretaries of each club would meet and draw up fixtures for the home and away games.

There were 10 Asian clubs:

1.      S.V.I.G.

2.      Patel Club

3.      Sikh Union

4.      Sir Ali Muslim Club

5.      Kathiawar Club

6.      Visa Oswald Club

7.      Surat District Club

8.      Aga Khan Club

9.      Railway Goan Institute (R.G.I.)

10.  Railway Indian Institute


There were 7 European clubs:

1.      Nairobi Club

2.      European Civil Club

3.      Impala Club

4.      Woodley Club

5.      Parkland Sport Club

6.      Wanderers Club

7.      Railway European Club


In the 1950s, we made a trip to Moshi to play against the Tanganyika Twigas, a mostly European side. Blaize DaCunha the great Kenyan spin bowler dominated that game with an inning of 125 runs. The scoreboard read: -

R.G.I.      178 for 5 - 1st Inning declare
Twigas   25 follow on 28

In the early 1960s, R.G.I. was invited to participate in the Asian Sports Association Knockout Tournament and had a sensational first match where we beat the Patel Club, then beat the Kathiawar Club in the second match. We went on to meet the Coast Gymkhana side in the quarter-finals at the Sikh Union Club grounds. We batted first and only scored 138 runs, but with great determination, we bowled out the Coast Gymkhana for 125 runs to win the match. Donald Gonsalves bowled well and most of the Coast team were out due to the brilliant catches by the R.G.I team. We then went on to face the Muslim Club in the semi-finals. We batted first and only managed 90 runs for 8. Then came Cecil Fonseca our 9th player who scored a sensational 95 runs, hitting 4 sixes and we were all out for 210 runs. In this match, Zulfikar Ali on the Muslim side was in fine form and bowled well in the match. The Muslim side began batting and at first, it seemed like they were in trouble 110 runs for 9. Blaze D’Cunha was playing well, but our captain began to panic and changed him after 1 over. Then came the Muslim side’s Basharat Hassan and Mubarak Ali who led the team to victory and won the match for the Muslim Club. Our goal of creating history with a Goan Victory in this renowned tournament was denied.

It was always the practice of each sports team to elect their captain. However, the rules suddenly changed one year, when the Hockey and Badminton ladies and men’s teams took part in the voting process and voted in the new Cricket captain for our team. This was an unprecedented and unacceptable practice which led to a few of us (non-railway workers “associate members” who had no voice in the management of the Club practices) splitting off from the R.G.I side. At this time, Dr Shashi Patel a Railway doctor asked a few of us to join the Railway European Club, which we did for 2 seasons, as Kenya’s independence was looming, players were leaving the country and the Clubs were shutting down. We then moved our game to the Wanderers Cricket Club, a beautiful setting at the beginning of the Kiambu Road, where we played for 3 seasons and they too shut down. The saddest part was to see our R.G.I. Club House had been demolished and the grounds dug up to make way for a boarding Government school complex.  

In Parallel – My Selections in Notable Matches

On my first local leave from work, I was asked to play for the Goan Institute (G.I.) against the Nazi Moja Club in Mombasa. Playing at the coast with an altitude of 57 feet above sea level with humidity was difficult at first. I only scored 50 runs. My host Armand D’Souza pulled me aside and gave me some profound advice that stayed with me throughout my career, “getting to 50 is the hard part, but once you score 50 you are well set, so just go for a 100”. On my next visit to Mombasa, a Saturday game playing again for the G.I. against Mombasa Club, my partner was Joe Fernandes, I remembered Armand’s advice and went for the century. 

In the late 1940s, I was selected to play for the Nairobi Asian Team touring Zanzibar and Dar-es-Salaam. It was a great game which we won. In the 1950s I was selected to play against the South African Coloured Team which was captained by the famous Basil D’Oliveira in Nakuru at the Rift Valley Sports Club and I was further selected to play against the Rhodesian Team on the Sikh Union ground. In the 1960s, an honour ever cricketer on our team hoped for and I was fortunate to have been given, was to be selected for the match between the Europeans and Asians. The Europeans lead 11 to Asians 1. We turned that game on its head and beat the Europeans. The Asians dominated, won one match after the other, equalizing the series with the last game ending in a record win for the Asians 450 runs with Akhil Lakhani’s 230 runs n.o. and Chandrakant Patel’s 220 runs n.o.

Kenya Commercial League

LtoR: Maura, Jasmer and Johnny at Porter House, Nairobi Kenya

In the 1950s, Jasmer Singh a great cricketer and my close friend, together with Maurice Wright, John MacFarlane and myself formed the Kenya Commercial League for teams which included government offices, banks and companies in the private sector. The games would be played off-season i.e. from July to October. The competitive sportsmanship in this league was exceedingly high and most enjoyable and it drew top players from the Asian Clubs.

I captained the Ministry of Works (M.O.W) side and in our very first season I scored 5 centuries in a row, 4 n.o. and held the record in the league. A game worth mentioning was when Luis D’Souza playing for Gailey & Roberts hit 11 sixes in a match against M.O.W. played on the Patel Club grounds. Other notable great names in cricket in those days included Ramanbhai Patel, Zulfikar Ali, Jawahir Shah, Akhil Lakhani and Chandrakant Patel.

Shortly after my record game in July of that year, the next big upcoming match was Kenya vs. Tanzania which would be held in August of that year. The organizing committee decided to have the scouting selection matches for 17 players at the Patel Club grounds and I was invited to tryout. By the time it was my turn to bat, it was about 6 p.m., the sun had begun to set and the light was diminishing. Throughout my cricket career, my greatest stroke was on the offside. The bowler was Dr Ranjit Singh a known fast bowler with a new ball. I defended my wicket but unfortunately got trapped on the pads. The devastating result for me, was when I was told later that day, that I could not play off-break bowling, and therefore not selected to represent Kenya.


My final Cricket years

Our Wedding 1959, Nairobi Kenya with the cricket bat and soccer ball arch.

In 1959, I got married to Maura Lobo from Kampala Uganda. We started our family in the early 1960s-1970s with 3 sons; John, James and Jerry and 3 daughters; Mary Ann, Melita and Michelle. My cricket career continued after independence and throughout my children’s young years into the mid-1970s where I played seasonal games for the Goan Institute (G.I.) side with players like Sunil Sarkar, Yunis Cockar and Alvito Rego. I finally passed on my cricket bat to my son Jerry and even some of our friend’s sons hoping they would take this great game into the future with them.

Having left Kenya in December 1993 and now a citizen of Canada residing in Oakville, Ontario, I still love to watch my children and grandsons pick up the cricket bat and play a match. At the age of 92, my great joy is still when they ask me to join them to bat.



IF you are the children of the first pioneers of East Africa, is there any point in knowing the history of those first pioneers? If the answer is YES read on. Some of us on the fringe of the new generations of Goans wonder if there is a need to educate the younger generation of the Goan history outside of Goa. JERRY LOBO and I have been pondering a zoom session. However, the problem may that we are not able to find anyone who is still alive and who lived that history. A starting point is an excerpt below which is a clinical miniature history lesson by the outstanding LADIS DA SILVA who, with words, paints a majestic tapestry of the history of Goan’s first pioneers in East Africa. While Da  Silva focuses mainly on Zanzibar and Pemba, the story largely mirrors those experiences in other parts of Goan pioneers in Eastern Africa.

Would love to hear from you:






TRY AS I MIGHT, I found it immensely difficult to trace the arrival of the first Goan in Zanzibar. The best I can recollect is when I was once invited by some sheikhs near Chukwani Palace, close to a Polytechnic School, and shown a grave by the seafront It had an Arab inscription on it and although age-old, it was in fair condition, even though some of the sides had fallen off with the rain and the storms. I was told by them that this belonged to the first Goan who arrived in Zanzibar more than 100 years prior. He had lived there, worked there and died there. Both Arabs and the natives were descendants of people who lived during his time and got the story from generation to generation. I cannot discount this story as I do know that Goans had come from the east coast of Africa long before any white man had done so. Evidence of this is there because of the trade between India and East Africa.

From historical records I have, I am prepared to state that Goans emigrated to East Africa some 125 years ago. Many Goans land in the port of Mombasa in Kenya earlier and were employed as civil servants in Kenya and Uganda. Kenya history tells you that the first district commissioner’s Chief Clerk was a Goan. The above facts are partially substantiated in the memories of Sir Arthur Hardinge, the Consul General in Zanzibar, who wrote: “A Goanese clerk was engaged in the Health Office in the year 1894.”

At this time, East Africa was under the government of the British Samaraj. This is one reason why Goans were given preferential treatment in the civil service. We are well aware of the fact that when in Bombay, Goa and Greater India, that had studied English and the three Rs, and were therefore well qualified to be civil servants under the British Raj. During this period Indian currency was used in East Africa. I vividly recall that was the currency during my time in the 1930s … rupees, annas, pice.

The judiciary, too, ran on the British system. They had Indians, Goans, Parsee lawyers, while the magistrates and the justice of the peace in the Appeal Court were all Britons. They had adopted the Indian Acts in their Hansard. The Arabs had their system in addition to this, their customs and traditions were age-old. They had khadis (judges) who dealt with minor cases and mudhirs, i.e. district commissioners who were appointed in different suburban areas and remote villages to run and settle the local native affairs. I must say those days all respected the law.

Goans had a rudimentary knowledge of accounts, storekeeping, inventory, customs-clearing, shipping and various other jobs. It is recorded that this was the reason why they had no problems in securing posts with the British, throughout their (the British) stay in East Africa.

During German timesin Heligoland (then called Tanganyika), they called the Goans “Goanese” who were classified as a separate race in the population census. The Germans in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) considered the Goans very special people, and because of this, they were accorded preferential treatment. Goans were popular in sports, they were good musicians, honest and industrious. These are the traits the Germans like in anyone. The European General Hospital in Dar-es-Salaam, the main port of Tanzania, had a special wing for the Goan community. Other ethnic groups were allotted a portion of the Nation Hospital.

Most of the early Goans who travelled abroad arrived without their families as they were single. They felt that they should travel first to a foreign land, tap the sources, see what it was like, secure a job position, earn some money, and if everything was well and favourable they would bring their wives or their families (or return to Goa and find a suitable bride).

In those early pioneering days, there were rumours in India and Goa, that  “Africa was a White Man’s Grave” like West Africa … that there were cannibals, malaria, tropical diseases, wild animals, and an environment that was full of difficulties. There were further told that all these took a heavy toll of foreigners. Therefore, it needed some pluck for the few who ventured out as adventurers. These would, of course, include our dear parents who had the grit to do what they did. (Generations will always remain grateful for that and more)

In those days travelling abroad was done by steamship or by dhow. The B.I.A. (British India) ploughed through the Indian Ocean regularly once a month, except for the monsoon season, when the ocean was treacherous with storms and tempests. Passaged cost a fortune. Because of this, it was not common for some Goans to travel to East Africa by the big Cutch Dhows, for which they paid a negligible amount of money. I recall the experiences of some of our Goans had travelled by dhow during my young days.

I understood from them it was no fun travelling by dhow in the high seas for a couple of months … in sheer discomfort, unsanitary conditions, and eating lousy Indian spice food that was half-cooked. There were no vegetables, no fruit or other amenities of life one could expect. With the storms, the heavy swells of the ocean brought about sea-sickness … it was something unbelievable …a terrible experience overall. Goans, generally speaking, who are used to a life of comfort and ease,  would find this a nightmare.  I have travelled with the British India ships through the Mozambique channel during monsoons and know that even this bad enough for a heavy tonnage steamer. One ship, Clip Fountain, that sailed before us, sank in the storm.

When shipping was scarce, Goans and Indians would travel from Zanzibar to the mainland to Dar es Salaam or Mombasa by dhow. They also travelled by dhows to the sister island of Pemba.

When the Goans landed in Zanzibar there were few people of their ethnic group around. These had come earlier. Because of this, they would voluntarily come forward to help any new arrivals. Since of most of these were single men, and Arab mansions were huge, these bachelors preferred to live together in a “mess” (expressed in North America as “rooming” or “sharing an apartment”). The new migrants were then assisted in procuring suitable jobs, and this was done through their compatriots who were in good graces with the British Officials. I was given to understand that they had no difficulties in doing so as the Briton like the Goans.

Living together, learning from each other, cooking, washing, playing cards (flush or poker) was fun in those early days. More than anything, speaking Konkani, their mother tongue among themselves was not unusual. The most amusing event was when they got together on a special festive occasion and had a few drinks. Eating their Goan delicacies, which each tried to cook in their way, interspersed with the Goan music of mandos and fados, they cracked jokes in Konkani, English and Portuguese simultaneously. At this time they had managed to obtain the services of a native servant whom they taught to cook and do some of the household chores. Labour was cheap then. Even when the servant stole food and drinks every day, the bachelor took this with a pinch of salt … life was fun … it was no point griping. When the Goans got into their revelries, eating and drinking and talking gibberish, the natives often wondered whether they were in their right minds or scatter-brained. However, the servants got used to this routine life. Even the English had this hotch-potch at their parties.

Beyond this, the Goans did not go overboard, although it was known that a few had Arab and native mistresses … but these stray cases.

Several Goans had learnt to speak Hindi when back home and this knowledge was put some good use in East Africa with the local Indian traders. I guess this was one reason my brother and I went to an Indian school to learn Gujerati, a little Marathi and Sanskrit, before joining the Mission high school.

In a small Goan community such as this, other than their parties they had practically no other social life at all. So they resorted to playing cards or organising bachelor parties to have good fun. At these parties, they sang their folks songs and played the violin, a favourite instrument of the Goans. A Goan plays musical instruments by notes and not by ear. This was achieved through private tuitions and schools, learning the Konkani “Masters”. At all their parties they never missed drinks. This was must and to a large extent, it still is. I guess we got this trait from the Portuguese. It was not an unusual sight to see bottles of Johnnie Walker which, in those days, cost Rs. 1.50. They had lots of Portuguese wines, mandel, cajel, urrakk, granjeau from Goa. Goa sausages arrived by ship that touched ports every month. Let it be remembered that in those days the island of Zanzibar was a free port and good were allowed to come duty free.

Despite all these expenditures, I know that there were well able to save some money to send home. This is how they managed to bring their wives and their families to East Africa eventually.

Occasionally the British officials invited them to the English club after a friendly, hockey, cricket or soccer game to have drinks and meals (maybe). This strengthened their relationships in the office. Many a Goan was promoted because his boss knew him better after meeting him at sports or at socials.

The Arabs and Swahilis and other ethnic races that lived there were friendly. In fact, Zanzibar was known to be the friendliest place in the whole of East Africa. Slowly Arabs and the natives started inviting them to their parties at home, where they would partake of their rich, spicy sumptuous and scrumptious meals. Of course, the absence of their women at these parties was conspicuous, and no alcoholic drinks were served in their homes. This had a religious significance for them.

Goans who were early pioneers in East Africa had good knowledge of English and Portuguese languages, plus a few other languages they had picked up here and there while doing several jobs abroad. Portuguese was spoken only within their circles and was of no use in official circles or business. I can safely adduce that the Portuguese language did help them immensely with the vocabulary in English, as has been in my case.

Goans likewise adhered to the age-old Hindu man-made caste system wherever they went. But as time passed, with so many problems, in various countries, this system was ironed out. The elimination of this scourge is a boon, as we are all human.

Some of the Goan clergy and Catholic Church in Goa then made no effort to eradicate this cancerous, pernicious system. To the contrary, some walled-in it and promoted it. However, in alien countries they have emigrated to, they cannot afford this anomaly. I have been told by people wherever I went on my travels that, as Catholics, Goans should be ashamed to even mention the caste system.

We heard the good side of the story of Goans in Zanzibar, and now we have to turn to a chapter on how they survived going through initial stages as new immigrants. The tropical heatwave, cholera, dysentery, yellow fever, malaria, smallpox, blackwater fever, bronchitis, pneumonia, and several other tropical diseases took their toll. I know of a few that paid the prices and whose graves are in Zanzibar and Pemba. Civil Servants were at timed compelled to be transferred to the island of Pemba, which was noted for malaria and blackwater fever. I have travelled there several times by the local Arab ferry steamers Al Said and Al Hathera and have witnessed the conditions there. I have made it a point to also visit the graves of friends who succumbed to blackwater fever and were buried there.

Malaria was very common in Zanzibar and no one slept on any of these islands without a mosquito net at night. Zanzibar and Pemba, as you will note, are malarious because of the mangrove swamps, thick jungles, clove and coconut palms. During the monsoons, it rains incessantly and these heavy rains form puddles and pools, where mosquitoes breed. The government took every possible measure to either control it or eliminate it in those days. I know this for sure because of several friends I had in the Health Office on both islands. There was a belief that neglected malaria brought about blackwater fever, which caused high temperature and the passing of blood urine. Hospitals, dispensaries and various medical facilities in those days were limited. And dispensaries and various medical facilities in those days were limited. And the few that existed were crowded every day. It was a ritual for everyone who lived on both islands in those days to dose him with quinine daily.

Few Goans ever wanted to go to Pemba, but gradually several Indians, Arabs, and European civil servants and hospital personnel commenced going there and eventually settling down, including my uncle Martin D’Silva who worked in the hospital, retired, went to Goa and died there. Goans who went to Pemba worked in hospitals, as lawyers, court clerks, businessmen, bakers, tailoring concerns, grocery shops, etc. Pioneers such as these paved the way for many others who followed suit, undaunted despite several difficulties and obstacles they had to encounter.

Geography plays a paramount role in emigration. Only those living close to convenient ports in India, like Karachi, Bombay, Goa, were likely to make the long and arduous trip by sea. Consequently, as described before, these were not unskilled labourers as were the coolies and manual labourers who built the East African Railways (Kenya-Uganda to start with) or, for that matter like the settlers in South Africa, Mauritius, Madagascar, Fiji, and the West Indies. We should not forget that these coolies were recruited by indenture for work on sugar cane, banana, clove, tea and coffee plantations. Those that were brought even for this purpose made their respective countries rich with their sweat and toil, to collect the harvest for sale to the rest of the world. We cannot deny even those groups of coolies who stayed and settled earned their money honestly. Their children were well-educated and enhanced the whole structure of the countries they lived in. Most of the indentured coolies were sent back to their homelands after their contracts expired.

We will come back to the subject of the missionaries, as they played a very important part in our Goan lives when they encouraged our children to go to their missions, schools and convents. Missionaries those days identified each and every member of the congregation by name and made it a point to visit each and every parishioner at least once a year to bless their homes. This was an old Goan custom and perhaps a custom and tradition in Christendom. They would try and get better acquainted with the family, inquire about the children, their education, personal welfare, and take more interest in everything that has happened in the community. This was not resented by the Goans; as a matter of fact, it was welcomed, since the missionaries learnt our ways, customs and characteristics. All in all, we could say that in those days we had meaningful relationships between the Church and individual Catholic families. We must admit that a priest or the clergy was practically a member of the family in those days.

The missionaries knew that the ancestors of the Goans were converted by St Thomas and St Francis Xavier, and because of this, they respected the Goans.

Turning to Goans in Zanzibar and East Africa it is recorded that they eventually brought their families to live with them. Those who were single went back on overseas leave (which was granted under the British) and brought back their brides. All this happened after they had worked for some time, saved some leave, and were in a position to rent a place and live independently. I can envisage that this was no easy task for those early settlers. It should not be overlooked that before they brought their families, they initiated them as to what to expect and what not to expect in East Africa. We should find some consolation that our ancestors and parents did agree, after listening to the tales of their husbands, to take their chances in a new country.

The arrival of the families meant that the number of the community had increased considerably. Our Goans are noted to be good organisers, and as there appeared to be a requisite need to find a meeting place for the families to gossip and share their ideas, their joys and sorrows, they formed small clubs and institutes. In Zanzibar, we had the Goan Institute, and on special occasions and feast days, the Goans gathered at a rented place to dance, eat and drink to the melodies of the Goan band. As time went on, they collected sufficient funds to buy a suitable building which would be permanently theirs. Here they had a library, arranged indoor games, concerts, socials, literary societies and sports. This was the first Goan Institute. Goan Institutes were set up in all the main cities and townships of East Africa.

All this was a novelty to the other ethnic groups and is small wonder that they too slowly organised their clubs.

Without warning came the Revolution in Zanzibar on January 12 1964, thus bringing to an end a long reign by the Omani Arab Sultanate. The revolution was so swift and quick that there was no time for reprisal. And so the Asians and with them, the Goans migrated to the mainland. Most of them migrated to Mombasa and Nairobi. Others went back to their homeland in Goa.

The wheel of Destiny slowly turned and with it came changes all over East Africa. These were sparked by revolutions, rebellions from the armies and the people. They wanted their countries for themselves … Africa for Africans … they wanted all the amenities that other ethnic groups had such as homes, cars, good food, clothes, farms, land, and above all jobs that the foreigners had supposedly taken from them. It was the birth of Nationalism, Africanisation and self-determination for the natives of Africa




ONE OF my life’s regrets will always be that I never interviewed Ladis Da Silva of Zanzibar. He was born in Zanzibar in 1920 and passed away in Canada in 1994. Silly really, because he was in Kenya until 1968 when he left for Canada with thousands of other Goans. Various Goans had mentioned his name in conversation but between 1960 and 1966 Sport and all its wonder made me a prisoner, a willing prisoner. There was little room for art. Ladis worked brilliantly with oils and acrylics, pen washes and renderings which appear identical to woodcuts. He had many art exhibitions but two I remember being told of was at the Catholic Parochial School and the other at the Dononvan Maule theatre, bother in Nairobi. He was an authority on Zanzibar and a prolific writer. On my several visits to Canada, our individual moons were in separate orbits. I had a copy of his book Zanzibar but unlike a boomerang, it never came back. He has a superb list to his credit. He was a brilliant artist and highly respected writer. Regret. The excerpt for Zanzibar gives the reader quite an entre into his observations skills and reportage.



Ladis Da Silva (1920-1994)
Born of goan parents on the island of Zanzibar, off the coast of East Africa, on 11 April 1920, Ladis Da Silva combines in himself two notable accomplishments: he is a consumate artist who before World War II worked with oils, water colours and acrylics to good effect, and later concentrated primarily on pen washes and renderings, which appear identical to woodcuts; he is also a writer of note having published books and written extensively on his work. He was educated at the Sir Euan Smith Madressa School up to the Leaving Certificate where he studied Gujarati, Marathi and Sanskrit. He then joined St. Joseph's High School for Advanced Studies under the Holy Ghost Fathers where he acquired his basics in art. In Zanzibar he was the founder-member of the Zanzibar Arts and Crafts Society under the aegis of His Highness the Sultan and the British Resident. As an assistant scout-master still in his teens he was asked to handprint the programmes on the occasion of the official visit of Sir Baden Powell, Lady Powell and their daughters for the Great Jamboree in 1935. The Programmes have been preserved in the Scout Museum in London. Emigrating to London in 1941, he founded the Goan Arts Society and was elected its President. He was a member of good standing of the exclusively European "5 Arts Club", "The Indian Christian Arts Society" and "Paa Ya Paa", the Kenya National Cultural Centre. In Nairobi he held several one-man exhibitions. His first was at the Parochial Catholic School Auditorium after the Second World War and his last at the foyer of the famous Donovon Maule Theatre on 30 January 1967. Several of his paintings were purchased by visiting tourists as they represented the wildife of Kenya. Ladis da Silva emigrated to Canada in 1968 where he specialised in the Native Indian and Inuit Art. His articles and detailed work which sensitively and accurately capture the sprituality and cultural traditions of the native people of Canada, have regularly appeard in the Toronto Native Times. His art. he has published three books (non-fiction) containing his own illustrations, namely the Americanization of Goans; Legendary Chandor and St Francis Xavier. His latest book captioned An Island Kingdom, an extensively researched work on the history of the Omani Dynasty in East Africa was published in the USA.

I WAS born in a fairly well-to-do family in Zanzibar in 1920. Zanzibar is an island off the coast of East Africa. Many writers, authors like Sir Richard Burton, Sir John Kirk, W.H. Ingram, Krapf, Speke, Sir Lloyd Mathews, Dr Livingstone, Sir Arthur Hardinge, L.W., Hollingworth, have, in their books and autobiographies, called this island the “Spice Island” or the “Emerald Island” of the Indian Ocean. The island is bordered by golden sands, surrounded by a deep blue Indian Ocean, a few atolls, fringed with the romantic coconut palm trees. I used to paint these scenes in colour from my young age … and even inspires me now.

Like Darwin’s Galapagos, the island is rich with the tropical flora and fauna. History has blazed this into international recognizance from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Navigators like Vasco da Gama, Luis Da Camoes, Affonso de Albuquerque, and several others, as we have already read previously, found their sea route from Europe to the Indies, invariably they all made Zanzibar their calling place for food, fuel, water and repairs. Explorers like Dr Livingstone, Stanley, Speke, Sir Richard Burton, also glamorised this place.

Very close to our heart is our patron St Francis Xavier, who landed in Malindi on July 28, 1542, and a detailed account of this was given to me previously. There still exists a chapel in Malindi where he said Mass when the Portuguese fleet was at anchorage there. Quite a number of Goans who went to Mombasa from Zanzibar made it a point to visit Malindi and see the chapel and Vasco Da Gama’s lighthouse. I have visited the chapel and the nearby graveyard several times.

The famous buccaneer Captain Kidd is said to have sought refuge around Zanzibar, Pemba and the surrounding islands, to hide from the British, who were looking for him. It was also rumoured among the natives that Captain Kidd had buried his loot and treasures on some of these islands around Zanzibar and Pemba. Treasure hunters from various nations are still searching for these lost treasures. Many of these treasure trove hunters claim they had found a map drawn by the buccaneer himself and still continuing their endless search for the treasures. Some have ventured as far as the Seychelles Island.

Zanzibar in those early days was the “nerve” and “earning” centre of East Africa. It eventually became a “spending centre”, as it grew more and more prosperous in its trade and commerce. With the British setting up their administration headquarters in conjunction with treaties signed with the Sultan of Zanzibar, they had the privilege from the Sultan to use Bet-el-Ajaib, meaning the “House of Wonders” for this purpose. This magnificent palace on the Zanzibar seafront is a very impressive edifice and was built during the reign of Sultan Said Bargash in the years 1870-1888. Beit-el- Ajaib is a palatial mansion and towers above all the other buildings. It has a clocktower which is used as a look-out tower for incoming and outgoing vessels. From this town, one can see for miles and miles in all directions. The architecture of this palace is unique in that it is in the English style and it is supported by massive pillars and has a few old cannons at the entrance, In addition to this, it has an antiquated elevator.

Whilst on the island during my young days it was rumoured by the natives and the Arabs that the Sultan built two other palaces, which were all connected to Beit-el-Ajaib by secret passages; the palace on the left with a small enclosed park was used by his harem and later became a school for Arab girls. The main palace of the Sultan was built at the seafront on the extreme left of Beit-el-Ajaib. The natives also said that Sultan Bargash killed all the artisans and skilled workers who built this famous palace as he thought in the whole of East African there was no building to compare it with … and he did not want a substitute to be built. He was proud of his great achievement and wanted everyone to know about it.

The British utilised the Bet-e;-Ajaib for several years until the “revolution” by Africans which overthrew the Arabs.

The British had the offices of the Secretariat and Establishments, the Treasury, the Audit and several other sections of their administration housed in this palace. Renovations were made and telephones installed during my time. I can well imagine what it was like in those early days when the British did not have any such facilities! I also recall how visitors to Zanzibar never left the island until they took a guided tour of the Beit-el-Ajaib. Since the Palace could not house all the administrative offices of the “Customs” and “Wharfage”, “Passages”, “Shipping” etc were accommodated in other palatial buildings not too far away from the main palace.

All key positions in the British Administration Offices were held by the old English “bards” and “lords” and “barons” and ex-civil servants from the India British Government. These ex-civil servants were transferred from Indian to East Africa, as they had the experience and expertise in running an administration. In Zanzibar, however, they had to reorganise everything from scratch.

Being in Zanzibar, I had the opportunity to learn several languages (oriental and occidental) and, naturally, the African. I learnt Kiswahili, the native language of Zanzibar, since my birth. This proved invaluable to me in other parts of Africa. Thereby I acquired a lot of information about Zanzibar, its history, legends and folklore, East Africa and the coastal kingdoms from natives and Arabs. Kiswahili is claimed to be originally a Bantu language and primarily used as a dialect by the Wahadimus of Zanzibar. As the years passed, with different nations ruling the East coast of Africa, or trading in slaves, spices, ivory etc, it slowly assimilated a rich tinge of the Portuguese, Persian, Arabic, Indian and even the English language. The intermixture brought about a rich, pleasant and very courteous language which reminds us of the French language. Kiswahili to this day is being used through Eastern Africa. I have formed my own opinion about this rich, exotic language … it is full of finesse and courtesy, which was the result of Indian and Arab influence of several years.

Since the Arabs had made East African their permanent home and did not want to return to Oman and Muscat in Arabia, they had no choice but to learn the native language. They came in contact with the natives on their plantations and in trade and commerce, slave trade, and so it was inevitable that happened. Strangely, Arabic which was their mother tongue was seldom spoken, even in their homes, where the women and the slaves spoke only Kiswahili. Arabic was spoken at royal barazaas at the Sultan’s palace and very few special occasions.