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10000 Shiling Note

Currency notes from colonial East Africa

The 10000 Shilling note dates 1/8/1951 - Extremely rare and iconic note for the Commonwealth series produced by East African Currency Board. King George VI. Note the inscription in English, Arabic and Gujarati - signifying the commercial importance of Gujarati and Arab people. Owber: Arunkan Shah.

Masai Bead Necklace

Masai Bead Necklace

For hundreds of years and before the arrival Europeans the African Masai people of today’s Kenya and Tanzania have handcrafted their own jewelry made of natural material.

The European traders introduced glass beads, which successively became fashionable by the Masai. Till today beads are produced in India and sold by Gujarati traders on the African market.

This object belongs to Simi Shah who lived in Kenya for many years. She brought this necklace to Britain in 1990.

Bala Krishna

Statue of Baby Krishna

Bala Krishna (Statue of Baby Krishna) The God Krishna is worshipped as a child by those who follow Pushtimarg, a sect of Hinduism. Daily rituals practised mostly by women in their homes, show spontaneous, selfless love for Krishna. It is said that single elderly ladies who worship child Krishna never go hungry as they eat the food that they have served him at least twice a day. The object has travelled from Gujarat to Zanzibar and then to the UK with the Vadgama family. Owner: Bhadra Vadgama.

Jain relious education box

Jain religion box

Jain ritual object box.  Used to teach Jainism to UK-born Gujarati school children. All six items are used in a ritual called Pratikraman and serve as reminders to the student of his/her ultimate goal in life - liberation, and way to achieve it. Owner: Harshad Sanghrajka.

Loga and Zeenat

Photography art work

Loga and Zeenat (Photography art work)  This small memorial portrait is part of  "from the coffee table to the kit(s)chen" - a series of photograph portraits of queer / LGBTT South Asians since the 1980s and their respective chosen Indian film stars from the 1970s,  published in the book "Red Threads" and launched at The Photographers Gallery London. Owner: Poulomi Desai, 1988.

Gujarati books cd

Educational material

Books and CD (Gujarati Educational Objects). It  shows importance of education, language and literature in Gujarati culture (poetry, children's book, teaching manuals). Owner: Niranjana Desai.

Zarathustra prophet

Prayer box

Prayer box of the Zarathustra, a prophet of the Parsee faith (Zoroastrian community). Beads and cloves frame; originally from Gujarat/Bombay and moved to Zanzibar. Owner: Rusi Dalal.


Prayer box

Shrinathji, the saviour of sailors, prayer box from Mandvi, Gujarati. Vipul Sampat presented it to Edward Simpson in 1998. Vipul assisted Edward during his anthropological 'fieldwork' in Kutch. He was a descendant of D.D. Sampat the historian and chronicler of the Bhatia community. One likes to imagine that Shrinathji travelled with Vipul across the Indian Ocean to meet the merchants whose biographies he wrote. Owner: Edward Simpson.

Aarati thali

A plate containing ghee, flowers, rice, camphor, etc. is presented to the Goddess.

Aarati Thali, a plate with sacred items. Often a Garba performances is concluded with the aarati ritual, where a plate containing ghee, flowers, rice, camphor, etc. is presented to the Goddess. Owner: Nayna Chhatralia.

Garbo (Garbha-Deep in Sanskrit)

Earthen pot symbolises the womb of women used during Navratri

Garbo, Earthen Pot used for Navaratri Ritual. Together with the Raas dance, Garba is probably the most quintessential Gujarati dance, especially associated with Gujarat’s agricultural past.  The word Garba is derived from the Sanskrit word for womb and therefore implies pregnancy - birth - life. Traditionally, the dance is performed around a clay lantern with a light inside, called a Grabha deep (womb lamp). This lantern represents life and the fetus in the womb in particular. The dancers thus honor Durga, the feminine form of divinity. Also, Garba is prominent in the Navaratri ritual, a nine-night long celebration for the mother Goddess Durga. Owner: Nayna Chhatralia.

Gujarat Samachar

Gujarati Newspaper in Gujarati

Gujarat Samachar, the widest read Gujarati publication outside of India. Owner: C.B. Patel.   

Asian Voice

Gujarati Newspaper in English

Asian Voice, Gujarati Newspaper in English. UK’s foremost English language paper aimed at the new generation of UK Asians. Originally known as New Life, and relaunched in 1997, it targets the broader Indian community in the UK. Owner: C.B. Patel.

Shilling note

Currency notes from colonial East Africa

The 1 Shilling note - Extremely rare and iconic note for the Commonwealth series produced by East African Currency Board. King George VI at top left, Value at centre and top right. Note the inscription in English, Arabic and Gujarati - signifying the commercial importance of Gujarati and Arab people.
One shilling note dating 1st January 1943. Owner: Arunkant Shah.


Hundi promising notes from colonial East Africa

Promissory Notes (Hundi)
These promissory notes are in favour of the Bird & Co and is signed by Imtiazally & Sons. It promises to pay Bird & Co a sum of money after 120 days. The official revenue stamps on the reverse side are in Indian Rupees and dated 11 September 1920 (where Indian Rupees were still used in East Africa). Arunkant Shah’s grandfather once worked for Imtiazally & Sons. As a result of the stock market crash in the USA in 1929 the company went into liquidation. Owner: Arunkant Shah.


Folding book stand holder for reading religiouis books

Sapro or Sapdo
 This folding book stand is in the possession of Arunkant Shah’s family for nearly 70 years. His parents brought it to Kenya in 1948 when they visited India after independence. Arunkant’s blind grandmother used it for prayers by placing her holy book on it. Owner: Arunkant Shah.


Bead work (pot-holder worn head gear)

Hindori (beadwork, a pot-holder)

It was used to carry pots on the head (The owner is Naina Chhatralia).

Moti chakdo

Bead square piece

Moti Chakdo (square bead piece)
This bead piece depicts the Hindu elephant God Ganapati and Krishna. It is made of coloured beads produced in India. The beads are sewn skilfully by hand showing various motifs of religious and mythological figures e.g.  Kadam Tree (one of the most important medicinal plant belonging to the Rubiaceae family, a mythologically famous flower tree),  birds, horses, holy cows and dancing girls (Gopis). Arunkant’s aunt Laxmiben made it in Kenya in 1930. With these pieces Hindu and Jain families used to decorate their homes in Africa and in India. Traditionally Gujarati merchants sold beads from India on the market to different African communities, which were very valued. (Owner: Arunkant Shah, Kenya).


Decorative Door hanging embellished with bead work

Bead Toran
A decorative door-hanging bead object made of coloured beads and meant to welcome guests to a Gujarati house.
Arunkant Shah’s grandmother Hirubai made this in the late 1920s. Once it decorated the entrance of Arunkant’s grandfather’s property and in 2005 Arunkant brought it from Kenya. The inscription says 'Bhai Amritlal Raishi, Nairobivara' 'Gama : Arikhana'. Meaning 'Mr Amritlal Raishi of Nairobi belonging to the village Arikhana' (one of the 52 villages of the OSHWAL community in Jamnagar).
Traditionally Gujarati merchant sold beads from India on the market to different African communities, which were very valued. (Owner: Arunkant Shah, Kenya).

Kediyun male smock

A smock worn by Dhebaria Rabari men in Kutch, Gujarat

Kediyun, a smock worn by Dhebaria Rabari men in Kutch district, Gujarat. It is made from heavy white mill cotton and hand and machine stitched. The motifs include peacocks, parrots, scorpions, and various florals – all considered to be auspicious. Much of the traditional embroidery from Kutch was made for dowry. This piece was made in the 1960s in Dhebaria Rabari village of Mindiala in Anjar taluka, east Kutch. Owner: Eiluned Edwards.


Coconut used as good omen for weddings, child birth and Birthdays

Narial, a coconut used as good omen for weddings, child birth and birthdays (1920, Uganda, Owner: Jaffer Kapasi).


Muslim prayer mat used by the Bohra community

Massalah, a Muslim prayer mat used by the Bohara community (1976, Uganda, Owner: Jaffer Kapasi).


Bohra prayer cap with gold thread

Topi, a Bohara prayer cap with gold thread worn by Bohara men (1972, Uganda, Owner: Jaffer Kapasi).


Kanga in bandhani style

Kanga (Bandhani style cotton cloth)  The inscription in Swahili says:" Fine feathers do not make a fine bird" Nairobi, Kenya. Owner: Shareefa Keshavjee.

Dukhawallah's Objects from Zanzibar

Porcelain plate (produced in Europe)

Porcelain plate with Islamic symbols, produced in Europe and sold in Kenya. Owner: Judy Aldrick.

Dukhawallah's Objects

Solid bronze Mouse paper weight

Mouse paper weight "My last item is a small mouse with a long spiked tail, which I found in Old Town Mombasa, Kenya.  This sat on the desk of an Indian merchant trader.  In the days before air conditioning or indeed computers, an endlessly whirling fan would keep some semblance of cool in the tropical heat.  Unpaid bills and receipts written on small scraps of paper were stuck on the spike, to prevent them from blowing away" (words of Judy Aldrick, Kent, England). Owner: Judy Aldrick.

Award Plaque

Award Plaque for music producer

Award of recognition given to Vibhaker Baxi, the owner of the influential Indian music record label NAVRAS for his work on Gujarati Hindi devotional music 1990s, India, Owner: Vibhaker Baxi.


Tempering bowl

Vaghariyun (Tempering Bowl)

Bhadra Vadgama inherited it from her mother in law, Kamlaben Patel. Kamlaben brought it from Sojitra, Gujarat to Kenya in 1946.  Tempering is a cooking technique used in Gujarati cuisine in which whole spices, dried chillies are roasted briefly in oil to liberate essential. Owner: Bhadra Vadgama.

Karai / Kadai

Cooking pot (Wok)

Brass cooking Wok (Karai or Kadai)
In the 1920s Arunkant Shah’s grandfather brought this brass cooking pot from India to East Africa. It was originally a brass plate and Shah’s aunt Laxmiben formed it in the 1940s into a wok. She learned this craft from the Luhar/Lohar (iron making) community. Owner: Arunkant Shah.


Sagdi (Jiko)

Tradtional oven used in Africa and Gujarat

Sagdi (Gujarati) or Jiko (Swahili). A  traditional portable energy efficient charcoal burning stove used for cooking in Kenya. It is made from a metal exterior, with a ceramic internal liner. Blacksmiths from Kutch and pottery experts helped popularise these stoves in Africa.  This object was brought to England in the 1980s. Owner: Raksha Pate, Wallington, Sutton.

Ghanti (Chakki)

Traditional stone grind mill

Ghanti (Chakki) - Traditional grinding stone.   The handmade object was obtained from a small stone quarry in village  Vania, near Rajkot, Gujarat in 1985. It consists of a stationary stone cylinder upon which a smaller stone cylinder rotates. The wooden handle is used to swirl the two stones in order to grind grains such as beans, moong, rice, and wheat. The flour is then used to make chapattis and other traditional Gujarati food.  Many Gujaratis took such these grinding stones to Africa or made them in Africa. Owner: Hansa Vadgama, Croydon.


Serving metal plate

Thalo – Serving metal (coated iron sheet) plate used for serving food at Gujarati Ismaili community events. Since 1923 this thalo belongs to the Manjee Keshavjee family of Pretoria, South Africa. It was part of a series of seven thalas and for over 75 years used by members of the Ismaili community in South Africa at their community celebrations (such as weddings). The inscription in  Gujarati says: "From the widow of the late Mukhi Manji Bhai Keshavjee to the Islamic Khoja Jamat of Pretoria as a gift". (Copper alloy, 1923, Gujarati, Owner: Mohamed M Keshavjee).

Khandi and Dasto

Pestle and Mortar

Khandi and Dasto (Pestle and Mortar in stone and metal). While the metal pestle and mortar was used to crush spices, the stone one was used to prepare chutneys and to crush chillies, garlic, and ginger. Owned by the late Shantaben Mehta in Kisumu, Kenya in 1960. In 1975 the objects were brought to England by her son Nitin Mehta (Croydon). Owner: Nitin Mehta.


Two bronze soup bowls

Tanshri (Bronze Bowls)

They are from Arunkant Shah’s family collection. Arunkant Shah’s grandfather brought these bowls from India to East Africa in 1945. It was used to keep butter-milk and cooked lentils. Owner: Arunkant Shah.


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