Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The African Diaspora to the East

Nawab Sidi Mohammed
Haider Khan, 1930
In the U.S. we are accustomed to thinking about Africans who came to North America, voluntarily or otherwise, but another diaspora went to the east.  The New York Public Library currently is running an exhibit called "Africans in India:  From Slaves to Generals and Rulers", which began on February 1, 2013 and will end July 6, 2013.

The emphasis in this exhibit is on East Africans, who logically would have been the majority to go east.  Known as Habshis (Abyssinians) and Siddis, they attained authoritative positions in India as generals, commanders, admirals, architects, prime ministers, and rulers.

If, like me, you can't go to New York in person to see the exhibit, you can view the related online exhibit of "The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean World."  Using images, maps, essays, and multimedia, this site discusses Africans from Sudan to Mozambique who went to the Arabian Peninsula, Persian Gulf, Indian subcontinent, and outlying areas.  In addition to Habshi and Siddi, the terms Kaffir and Zanji are used for the descendants of East Africans.  Along with covering a broader area, this exhibit has information on people of more social classes, including soldiers, sailors, merchants, servants, and musicians.  A bibliography for further study is also included.

Both of these exhibits relate a history that is not well known.  They are presented through the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

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