The great African Saga: Exhibition of African Diaspora

Published Date:   Thursday, Mar 21, 2013

Though the epic odyssey remains little known, African diaspora is a global phenomenon today spreading across different countries. They are often known as Kaffir, Siddi, Habshi, or Zanji is different parts of Indian subcontinent. The worked in very diverse occupation such as soldiers, servants, sailors, merchants, mystics, musicians, commanders, nurses, or founders of dynasties, they contributed their cultures, talents, skills and labor to their new world, as millions of their descendants continue to do. The African diaspora is a story replete with fascinating stories of struggles which they exhibited in their host societies. These Africans brought into the Indian subcontinent through the ports of Baluchistan and Sindh, where they worked as dockworkers, horse-keepers, domestic servants, agricultural workers, nurses, palanquin carriers and apprentices to blacksmiths and carpenters. Naturally, most of them settled in Pakistan as compared to other parts of the Indian subcontinent. Most of them settled in "Mombasa Street" and "Sheedi Village" in Karachi. In India they are mostly called as Siddis as well as Hobshi settled mostly in Hyderabad (Habshiguda), Guajarat, Bengal, Goa. They are also also presence in Matota in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and Maldives.  During the 14th century, when the Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta was at Colombo, he noted "the wazir and ruler of the sea," Jalasti, had "about 500 Abyssinians" serving in his garrison.
Today the Africans have assimilated into the local societies to a great extent in terms of religion language and there are intermarried with the dominant societies of the local populations. But they are traces of linguistic and other identities markers which are easily identifiable. The forthcoming exhibition at New York Public Library

during July 2013 is a great initiative to showcase the history of African Diaspora. The website will provide more details of the exhibitions.


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