Tracing the footsteps of pioneering grandparents


Tracing the footsteps of pioneering grandparents

Marius Fernandes and his family meet up with members of the Goan community in Nairobi.


In the dawn of March 2024, our journey to Kenya began—a pilgrimage to retrace the indelible imprints left by our pioneering grandparents, Mathias Xavier Fernandes and Maria Emilia Fernandes. Their narrative, woven with threads of resilience and adventure, unfolded as a beacon guiding us back to the heart of Kenya, where their legacy thrived.
Half a century had elapsed since my grandparents, along with my mother Antonetta Fernandes and siblings, bid farewell to Kenya, returning to our ancestral home in Goa. Yet, their tales resonated within the walls of our house, echoing with the rhythms of Swahili songs and narratives of Kenya’s vibrant history.
With the passage of time, the memories of Kenya remained alive through my mother's poignant recollections, preserving the spirit of a bygone era marked by the Mau Mau uprising, the resonance of Pio de Gama’s and Fritz D’Souza’s ideals, and the athletic prowess of Seraphino Antao – a tapestry interwoven with Goan heritage.
Driven by an enduring desire to unearth the roots of our lineage, my sister Maria Goretti Fernandes, my children Ashley and Gemma Fernandes, and I decided to embark on an odyssey to Kenya.
This trip to Kenya took shape when Ashley and Gemma had some time off in the UK and were thinking of where to go. I was in Goa at the time and they asked me to join them.
Ashley thought Kenya would be perfect as I hadn’t been there since I had left the country as a child and was always talking about my birthplace. My sister, Maria Goretti, who was with me in Goa at the time also joined us on this historic journey.
Maria Goretti and I left from Goa on March 2, while Ashley and Gemma joined us from London and we all arrived in Nairobi on March 3.
As our plane touched down at Jomo Kenyatta Airport, Nairobi, the anticipation of retracing familial footsteps surged within us.
Graciously welcomed by the hospitality of Professor Elizabeth Mazrui, we found solace in her spacious abode, a haven from which to commence our exploration. Nairobi, a bustling metropolis, unfolded before us, a tapestry adorned with culinary delights and pulsating nightlife, each corner resonating with the echoes of history.

[From L to R] Maria Goretti Fernandes, Gemma Fernandes, Gale D’Costa (Secretary of the Goan Institute) and Marius Fernandes at the Goan Institute in Nairobi.

Guided by the benevolence of our friend Paloma Gomes Fernandes, we ventured to the historic Goan Institute, Nairobi – a bastion of culture and camaraderie. Amidst the hallowed halls, Gale D’Costa regaled us with tales of yore, illuminating the institute's storied past, a testament to the enduring legacy of Goan heritage.
An exquisite Goan lunch became a communion of flavours, bridging the chasm between past and present, as we savoured the culinary traditions passed down through generations.
In the days that followed, Professor Elizabeth Mazrui became our steadfast companion, leading us to the hallowed grounds of the City Cemetery – a sanctuary where the spirits of great Goans found eternal repose. Amongst them, the monumental mausoleum of Joseph Zuzarte Murumbi stood tall, a testament to his indomitable spirit and legacy of service.
Beside him about hundred meters lay Pio de Gama Pinto, a luminary whose life epitomised the struggle for freedom and justice. His journey, intertwined with the annals of Goa's liberation movement and Kenya’s fight for independence, bore witness to the indomitable spirit of resilience and courage.
Pio’s legacy, enshrined in the annals of history, serves as a reminder of the enduring bonds that unite Goa and Kenya – a testament to the shared heritage and collective aspirations of our people.
As we bid adieu to Nairobi, our hearts heavy with the weight of history, we carry with us not just the memories of our journey, but the profound realisation that our roots are intertwined with the tapestry of Kenya’s rich heritage – a legacy that shall endure for generations to come. [To be continued]

[The writer is popularly known as Goa’s Festakar due to his pioneering efforts to revive and promote Goan culture through people-oriented festivals]

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