Shihan de Silva (University of London)

Indian Ocean Memories and African Migrants

Film Screening & Lecture

Tuesday 13 June, 12-2 pm, IG 1.414

Poster (PDF)

Video: Part 1 & Part 2

This lecture concerns the easterly movement of Africans both voluntary and involuntary. The better known westwards migration tends to colour the perceptions of the easterly movement. Archival sources together with narratives of the diasporists can contribute to recovering the lost past. Memories of the diasporists will be illustrated through a film entitled Indian Ocean Memories and African Migrants, produced and directed by Dr Shihan de Silva in which she explores the cultural memories of the largest Afro-Sri Lankan community.

Dances and songs in creolised Portuguese, a language of trade and commerce for 350 years in Sri Lanka, connect Afro-Sri Lankans to Africa, no longer an imagined homeland. Africans were prominent in the Indian Ocean World in various spheres but the majority of Afro-Asians have been pushed to the margins due to political changes and loss of patronage. Performing traditional art forms enable Afro-Sri Lankans to carve out a niche in the cultural arena of their hostland. Fading memories of slavery and the slave trade can still be heard in the narratives of their oral histories. They rekindle interest in East-West trade and colonial interventions in the Indian Ocean.