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Mervyn Maciel, author of 'Bwana Karani' and 'From Mtoto to Mzee' | Coastweek

SYDNEY Australia -- Once Her Majesty’s civil servant in colonial Kenya: Scenes from the life in Northern Kenya and the United Kingdom of Mervyn Maciel, author of two popular Kenyan memoirs 'Bwana Karani' and 'From Mtoto to Mzee'.


Mervyn Maciel, author of 'Bwana Karani' and 'From Mtoto to Mzee'

SYDNEY Australia -- A Kenyan "Giver’s" trove of memory: Mervyn Maciel, author of 'Bwana Karani' and 'From Mtoto to Mzee'  -- A review by Cyprian Fernandes.

At the heart of Lois Lowry’s superb futuristic children’s novel are two central characters: the Receiver and the Giver.

They have lived in community where there is no war, suffering, colour, sex, music or love.

There is no greed, gluttony or any of the seven deadly sins.

This is the ultimate sanitised society.

One boy is nominated every few generations or so to receive the community’s collective memory from the aging Giver who know just about everything there is to know about all the wars, genocide, crimes including murder, everything that wrong and everything that right about a world that virtually destroyed the planet. The Giver is the sole archive, the memory banks, and he has instant recall.

My friend Tony Reg D’Souza, a former teacher among other things, is somewhat of a "giver", in the sense that his memory of Goan history in East Africa, especially, Kenya is admirable. Given his years, his instant recall is the stuff of wonderment.

In the absence of any formally written history, individual memory, factional books by people like Peter Nazareth (In Brown Mantle, etc.) and Braz Menezes (Matata trilogy), J. M. Nazareth’s own biographical work (Brown Man Black Country), Maciel’s contributions and historical records of Kenya by other authors serve as important documents that capture the story of the important Goan community in East Africa.

Mervyn Maciel, once Her Majesty’s civil servant in colonial Kenya and the author of two books: Bwana Karani about his experiences as a civil servant and his more recent contribution, From Mtoto to Mzee, one Goan’s journey from childhood to the realm of elders in the community.

Bwana Karani quite rightly won accolades in a niche market: the Goan community, former Kenyan civil servants and the curiosity few who were enchanted by the Swahili title of the book.

His second book, however, will lack the wider readership his entrée attracted mainly because it is a personal anthology, akin to the words that often paint on the canvas of family trees.


'Bwana Karani'  a memoir by author Mervyn Maciel.
None the less, it is a commendable effort from someone who akin to a "Giver" in the colonial and Kenyan context.

It is always very rewarding to hear him talk about his experiences as clerk in Kenya’s Northern Frontier District (Kapenguria, Lodwar, Lokitung, Isiolo, and Marsabit,) at a time when white and brown skins in the area were often rarer than the elusively shy bongo (antelope) in the Kenyan forests.

The NFD was inhabited by Somalis, Borana, Rendile, Gabbra and a few other tribes.

However, Somalia, to this day, maintains that the area was "stolen" by the British colonialists, and a constant state of war (including several incidents of genocide) has continued to ravage the area.

The NFD is semi desert, hot and sometimes drier than the Sahara but it is rich in local folklore, music, anthropological history, the rugged beauty of earth and people that as fierce as they are gentle, tormented and sometimes at peace with themselves amid the fighting.

I met him for lunch in London (July 2015) for the first time and his mind and memory are sharper than the point of a needle.

I knew his late brother Wilfred (we supped many a Tusker lager) in Kenya who was quite a brilliant advertising man and his CV would include meetings with some of the most important politicians of the day, including Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta.

Come, join Mervyn’s safari as he takes you through the many roads that made up his life: from early childhood, schooling in and life in India and Goa to beginning a new life in Kenya.

He will take you sightseeing in some of the most splendid towns in northern Kenya.

He will let you peep into his bachelor days, falling in love and marriage, the tragedy of losing a child (and, much later, his brother Wilfred), life in the White Highlands (reserved for white farmers) of Kenya, a rude awakening in Zanzibar, farewelling Kenya with tears in the Maciel hearts, living in a 'manyatta' (homestead) in Sutton UK.

The refreshing about Maciel is that he writes like he talks and he calls it as he sees it.

He does not veer into risky or dangerous territory and sticks like superglue to the stuff he knows.

I am sure, also, the Colonial Service Code of Ethics has ensured that he has practises the utmost discretion because he does not divulge any juicy indiscretions, gossip or secrets he must have come face to face with sometime in his long career.

You will not get an expose on this safari.

What you do get is an honest story, with limits.

I make this point because his story is devoid of politics, rebellion or crime.

Mervyn Maciel is indeed a very talented man and a raconteur who tells a good story every time he writes or speaks.

Enjoy the safari. The book is available from:

Mervyn Maciel


219 Collingwood Road

Sutton, Surrey,

SM 1 2LX (U.K.)

Price £10 (incl. postage within UK. £8 if collected)

Overseas: £8 + postage approx. £6

And in Canada:


Author, journalist and music lover Cyprian Fernandes

Former Nation Chief Reporter Cyprian Fernandes is a veteran investigative journalist who currently lives in Sydney Australia.


Queen honours Mervyn Maciel - Author 'From Mtoto to Mzee' and 'Bwana Karani'

SYDNEY Australia -- The Queen has honoured 88-year-old Mervyn Maciel – one of the world’s best known British civil servants in Kenya and author of the delightful Bwani Karani and the companion book From Mtoto to Mzee – with an invitation to her annual Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, writes Cyprian Fernandes.

So on May 23, Maciel, attired in a morning suit and top hat (or lounge suit or a Kenyan national outfit), will front up at Buckingham Palace at 3.00 p.m. with his daughter, Josey, on his arm. His wife Josephine is ailing and, most unfortunately, unable to attend.

Maciel has spent most of his life exposing the good, bad and ugly side of the former Colonial Civil Service in Kenya.

He is very respected by his former colleagues and seniors for his honesty and his fairness in documenting life in some of the most distant corners of colonial Kenya.

Maciel suspects that the invitation came on the recommendation of the Secretary of the Overseas Service Pensioners’ Association but more because of Maciel’s various contributions (books, countless articles) as a member of the association.

In his imitable fashion, especially when it comes to his personal glory, Maciel usually down plays things.

"Don’t know if anyone would want to know or care for that matter," he wrote to me in a personal note.

"I am sure as a respect Goan, Kenyan and British, thousands will join me congratulating our favourite 'rafiki' (friend)".


Queen honours Mervyn Maciel | Coastweek

The Queen has honoured 88-year-old Mervyn Maciel with an invitation to her annual Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.
Maciel and his daughter Josey will be among 8000 people who will be attending this year’s party.

Folks are invited for their services to the public or charity work.



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