Story behind the book cover
It is a photograph taken from the Nakuru to Nairobi highway in Kenya. During the British colonial era this odd-shaped rock was commonly called Lord Delamere’s nose. Today, it is properly identified as the Sleeping Warrior in honour of the Maasai legend. Look closely at the rock formation below the sun and you will notice the mountain range in the form of a man lying down; that is the Sleeping Warrior.
Lord Delamere arrived in Kenya in the early 1900s and eventually settled in Soysambu; a dry land near Lake Elmenteita. Soysambu translated from Maasai means the place of striated rock. Lord Delamere befriended the Maasai who provided him with valuable knowledge that enabled him to experiment with different methods of raising cattle. Over time, Lord Delamere created a successful cattle ranch on this confiscated land from the Maasai near the Sleeping Warrior.
One of the main streets in the city of Nairobi was called Delamere Avenue with his statute strategically positioned on the street. Post Kenya independence, the street was re-named Kenyatta Avenue, in honor of the first President of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta. Lord Delamere’s statute was taken by the family and now sits on their property in Soysambu. Up until today the Delamere family is thriving on this land; some of their Kenyan offspring, including the initial settler Lord Delamere, are buried on this property.
When Sabby Mendes leaves Portuguese Goa aboard the dhow Monsoon Wind bound for British East Africa in 1916, he has one dream—to find work as a tailor in the relatively new capital of Nairobi. Sabby is a young man, still a teenager, but he is determined to build a life for himself, and he knows that the opportunities in the British Protectorate are better than those facing him at home.
A bright, affable young man with a genuine passion and talent for tailoring, he is not prepared for what he is about to find beyond the Arabian Sea. The Protectorate, which will become British Colony of Kenya, is a highly segregated society with the British firmly ensconced at its top; below them are the “Asians” like Sabby; and at the very bottom are the native African population who are regarded as little more than savages in need of civilization.
Beneath the African Sun offers, through the eyes of its protagonist, a street-level view of the changing social and political climate of Kenya between 1916 and 1970, including the ‘Mau Mau’ Uprising of the native Kikuyu, the eventual independence of Kenya in 1963, and the political fallout that followed.
More than a history, it is a story about family, home, social justice, and what it means to truly belong somewhere.
“…A touching story of attachment to a beloved, troubled place.
…Lynch successfully weaves in momentous historical events—Princess Elizabeth’s visit to Kenya, the Mau Mau Uprising, and Africanization under Jomo Kenyatta—as well as technological and cultural shifts. Best of all, she gives a strong sense of life in a three-tiered racial hierarchy: colonizers at the top, then Asians, and Africans at the bottom. ”
- Kirkus Reviews
“I enjoyed meeting Sabby Mendes and his family and I learnt through their struggles what life was for the Indians in Kenya. This book also helped me to reflect on the value of family roots and the importance of social justice – concepts dear to everyone in any country of the world.”
- Professor Manuela Marujo, University of Toronto