Abstract


GLOCALCOLLOQUIES - Vol 1, Issue 1, May, 2015

Gendered Identity at the Interstices of Art, Trade and Domesticity: A Socio-literary Analysis of Sultan Somjee’s Bead Bai

Author: Pandurang, Mala

Category: Research

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Abstract:

This paper offers a gendered reading of Sultan Somjee’s first novel Bead Bai (2012). Somjee brings to the fore the experiences of a relatively unknown community of Satpanth Khoja women in Kenya known as Bead Bais. These women were actively engaged in the barter trade between Asian dukawallahs and the indigenous African population. The paper examines how Somjee’ reconstructs the unique cross-cultural exchange between the two communities, which has not been explored sufficiently in the context of the East

African Asian narratives. Somjee’s main protagonist Sakina participates in the bead trade. Somjee interweaves Sakina’s personal narrative with the larger narrative of the history of Asians in East Africa. Sakina’sskill at both traditional zari embroidery and Maasai beadwork becomes symbolic of the synthesis of African and Indian influences. The novelalso drawsour attention to the plight of marginalized women within the community like widows, and prostitutes.Somjee’s text is therefore read as an important tangential source to capture the finer nuances of gendered individual and collective mobility.

Keywords: Gendered reading, East African Asian Diaspora, Satpanth Khojas, Bead Bais, Maasai aesthetics.

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