Afrasian Aesthetics in M.G. Vassanji’s The Magic of Saida

A Reflection

In: Matatu
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  • 1 Kenyatta University, Kenya, Nairobi
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The Magic of Saida by M.G. Vassanji (2012) centres on the central figure of the novel’s story, Kamal. He is the son of an African mother and an Asian (read Indian) father, who grows up in Tanzania and then relocates to Canada where he becomes an established doctor. The novel tackles themes of African-Asian (read Afrasian) racial identity, belonging, and the effects of the past on the present. Kamal identifies mainly as an African when residing with his mother in Kilwa during his childhood; he is then urged to embrace an Indian identity when he is sent to live with his uncle in Dar es Salaam in his early adolescence. Decades after moving to Edmonton, Canada, Kamal decides to come back to Kilwa. This paper explores the tension and ambiguity in Kamal’s identity by analyzing the way he defines himself—or is defined—in Kilwa and Dar es Salaam, and then investigating, through an eclectic psychochriticism lens, how that in turn affects him as he ages and drives him to return in seach of what it means to be both an Asian and an African in the context of East African cultural landscapes.

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