Encounter with African Beauty Queen

John Otim

Kenya’s World famous Writer Ngugi wa Thiongo has said of his Kenyan life that he had always assumed the presence of European influence. But he was, even as a writer, Ngugi said, totally unaware of the Indian presence in his life. Till one day in 2006, after he published his childhood memoirs. As he reread the work, the Indian presence in his life and throughout Kenya sprang at him from all over the pages. India he now realized had always been, even more than Europe, a part of his experience.

Witness the influence and impact of India on Kenyan cuisine; the building of the East African Railway, the development of trade, commerce and medicine in Kenya, Ngugi said, were all replete with the Indian genius. A year after Ngugi’s discovery, as if to underscore the great man’s sudden insight the Indian presence in the neighboring State of Tanzania came alive in a more than vivid manner. When for the first time in history a girl of Indian ancestry won that country’s Beauty Crown and earned for herself the right to represent her country in the prestigious Miss World Beauty Contest.

Nile Journal caught up with Richa Ahdia for an exclusive. Excerpts from the interview:

Nile Journal: You are a Tanzanian born and bred. But your ancestors come from India. Explain?

Richa Adhia: Yes I am a born and bred Tanzanian of Indian origins. I like to call myself Afro Asian. My great grandfather from my mother’s side moved from Goa to Tanzania to work on the cloves plantation in Pemba [Zanzibar]. My grandfather from my father’s side came to Tanzania to work in the then quite small southern Tanzanian town of Morogoro. That is how our roots were planted.

NJ: talk about your childhood

RA: I grew up in Mwanza, a small town surrounded by lake Victoria. My childhood was a very simple one. I grew up in this beautiful small town on the shores of the second largest lake in the world, with no phones, no computers no clubs nor malls. I feel sorry for the children who have not seen such a life. Coming from the simplest imaginable background has made me appreciate life more than most of my peers.

NJ: In the lovely video by Robert Weijs about you, you said your Grandmother has been central to your life. Tell us.

RA: My parents separated when I was 15. I grew up with my mother’s side of the family and was always around my grandmother.  She is a wonderful woman and because of her I was instilled with great values and a sense of history.

NJ: You were the first non Black African girl to win a beauty crown anywhere in East Africa. What did, what does your victory mean?

RA: My victory meant a whole lot; it still does. In a world full of wrangles it provided a platform for the celebration of multiculturalism and diversity.

NJ: In the year 2007 you were a contestant for the Miss World Crown. What was it like?

RA: Yes I did contest in both Miss Earth and Miss World events. At Miss Earth I believe I did quite well. At Miss World even though I did not win, I carried the Tanzanian and the African flag high.

NJ: What have you done since you left the spotlights of the Crown?

RA: I run my own business; we do events management and real estate. I am also the founder of a nonprofit organization (RAF) that supports old homeless folks, which is a growing problem in our country. Last October I launched my own Animal Shelter to fight against cruelty to animals.

NJ: Great!