SOAS University of London

Centre of African Studies

Cultural Heritage of the African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean: Musical and Linguistic Traditions of Afro-Asians on Film

Cultural Heritage of the African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean
Shihan de Silva, Parvati Nair, Tope Omoniyi

Date: 27 February 2014Time: 7:00 PM

Finishes: 27 February 2014Time: 9:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Film

Film: Indian Ocean Memories and African Migrants (2014) dir. Dr Shihan de Silva (Institute of Commonwealth Studies)

This film explores the cultural memories of the largest Afro-Sri Lankan community. Dances and songs (in creolised Portuguese, the language of trade and commerce for 350 years on the island), connect the Afro-Sri Lankans to Africa, now no longer an imagined homeland.  Africans were prominent in the Indian Ocean World in various spheres but now the majority of Afro-Asians are pushed to the margins.  Performing tradition enables 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.  

Panel discussion:
  • Professor Parvati Nair (Queen Mary University, London)
  • Professor Tope Omoniyi (Roehampton University)

Our film series and panel discussions with the filmmakers propose to make visible people of African descent in the world. By including films from the Indian Ocean World (Sri Lanka) and Africa (Mali and Benin), we aim to throw light on slavery in the African continent as well as its eastwards dimension. Slavery has all too often been studied in isolation from Africa. The focus has mainly been on the North Atlantic World. Indeed, the cultural dimension of Diasporas has long been observed in the North Atlantic World, but it has received only scant attention within the context of emancipated slave communities elsewhere.

The films and the discussion panels aim to question the biases in understanding slavery.

An accompanying exhibition of photographs by Fanny Challier entitled 'Malian Landscapes of Freedom' will be displayed in the Wolfson Gallery, SOAS Library, 24th February - 21st March 2014.

Organiser: The Centre of African Studies (SOAS)

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