Remembering Indian Ocean Slavery through Film

Afro-Sri Lankan Memories

In: Journal of Global Slavery
Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya University of London

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Due to assimilation, the diversity of the region, and the problems of identification, the presence of Asians with African ancestry in some parts of the Indian Ocean goes largely unnoticed. Whilst Ethiopians came to Sri Lanka voluntarily during the sixth century, the largest known Afro-Sri Lankan community’s history dates back to the island’s colonial era, which began in the sixteenth century. Oral traditions and archival records demonstrate that the Indian Ocean slave trade carried on even after abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Although their numbers have dwindled due to out-marriage and assimilation, this community’s presence is marked out through its strong cultural memories. This article highlights the significance of film as a medium for making Sri Lankans of African ancestry visible and giving them a space to reflect about their ancestors, cultural traditions and sociolinguistic transformations.

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