This book captures the history of the South African Ismaili families and some of the people among whom they lived from 1894, when the first Ismaili, Jeevan Keshavjee, left Kathiawad (Gujarat) and arrived in South Africa, up to 1994, when the country attained its multiparty democracy following the release of Nelson Mandela. It covers the growth of the greater family, and its dispersal first to Kenya, then to Canada, the UK, Portugal, the US, and elsewhere, and its many successes. It covers apartheid in South Africa and the family's contributions to the struggles against it; the colonial and postcolonial periods during which the family flourished in Africa; and finally the diasporic reality in which we find ourselves today.
With 60 historical photographs, a family tree, and a facsimile of Mahatma Gandhi’s letter to Velshi Keshavjee in 1938, this unique account is not only a multigenerational family history but also a history of the Asians of Africa over a hundred years. It's an account of a legacy to bequeath to the generations to come.
"Mohamed Keshavjee, in his book [Into that Heaven of Freedom] captures historical moments with a vivid imagination which provides the reader with food for thought and an increased awareness of the roles played by Indians in shaping present day South Africa."
—Soli Osman, Awaaz Magazine
"[This] work is unmistakably a labour of love. Through years of travel, travail, observation and experience, [the author] brings new insights into issues born out of a human struggle for a better tomorrow, but presented with humour and irony, without losing the sense of proportion, compassion, care and understanding which are so critical to interracial understanding today.”
—Ahmed Kathrada, from the Introduction.
"A highly readable narrative on the Khoja Ismailis of Africa, woven around the history of the author’s family, and the people among whom they lived at a very interesting time in Africa’s colonial and post-colonial era. He captures beautifully the winds of change and how they propelled people to new horizons, giving rise to yet another Diaspora."
—Farhad Daftary, author of A Short History of the Ismailis
Mohamed M. Keshavjee is a second generation South African of Indian origin. He is a graduate of Queen’s University in Canada and attained his LLM and PhD degrees at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He was called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn, London. After leaving South Africa in 1962, Keshavjee lived in Kenya where he went to school and later practised law. For the past 30 years, he has lived in France working with the Aga Khan Development Network. He is a specialist in Alternative Dispute Resolution in cross-cultural contexts with a special emphasis on diasporic communities. He is a member of the EU team of International Family Mediators and has travelled extensively throughout the world. At present, he lives in Britain where he lectures at various universities.
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