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We Mark Your Memory: Writing from the Descendants of Indenture

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About the project

The abolition of slavery was the catalyst to the arrival of the first Indian indentured labourers in the sugar colonies of Mauritius (1834), Guyana (1838) and Trinidad (1845). This was followed by the inception of indentureship in South Africa (1860) and Fiji (1879). By the time indentureship was abolished in the British Empire (1917-1920), over one million Indians had been contracted under this system of labour, and the overwhelming majority of this number never returned to India. Today, an Indian indentured labour diaspora is found in Commonwealth countries including Belize, Kenya, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the Seychelles.

Indenture, whereby Individuals entered, or were coerced, into an agreement to work in a colony in return for a fixed period of labour, was a system that was open to abuse from recruitment to plantation. Hidden within this little known system of 19th and early 20th century Indian labour migration are even more neglected stories of exploited and unfree labour under the British Empire. These include indentured histories from Madeira to the Caribbean, from West Africa to the Caribbean and from China to the Caribbean, Mauritius, and South Africa.

The diversity of the men, women and children involved in indentured labour migration is evidenced in literature that bears testimony to the resilience of these communities and their descendants. Writers such as V.S Naipaul (Trinidad), Jan Lowe Shinebourne (Guyana), Agnes Sam (South Africa) and Satendra Nandan (Fiji) have artfully created literary responses to the scars of the system of indenture and its legacies.

To mark the centenary of the abolition of indenture in the British Empire (2017-2020) this volume brings together, for the first time, new writing from across the Commonwealth. It is a unique attempt to explore, through the medium of poetry and prose, the indentured heritage in the 21st century.

The anthology is published by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, and by Peekash Press, in partnership with the Commonwealth Foundation.

Edited by David DabydeenMaria del Pilar KaladeenTina K. Ramnarine.

Contributors:

Fiction

Aneeta Sundararaj (Malaysia)

Anirood Singh (South Africa)

Cynthia Kistasamy (South Africa)

Deirdre Jonklaas Cadiramen (Sri Lanka)

Kevin Hosein (Trinidad & Tobago)

Mary Rokonadravu (Fiji)

Priya N Hein (Mauritius)

Suzanne Bhagan (Trinidad & Tobago)

Nonfiction

Akhtar Mohammed (Canada)

Anita Sethi (UK)

Arnold Thomas (St. Vincent & the Grenadines)

Brij Vilash Lal (Fiji)

Gitan Djeli (Mauritius)

Prithiraj Dullay (South Africa)

Poetry

Angelica Oluoch (Kenya)

Athol Williams (South Africa)

David Dabydeen (Guyana)

Eddie Bruce-Jones (UK)

Fawzia Kane (Trinidad & Tobago)

Gabrielle Jamela Hosein (Trinidad & Tobago)

Jennifer Rahim (Trinidad & Tobago)

Kama La Mackerel (Mauritius)

Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming (Trinidad & Tobago)

Noelle Moa (Samoa)

Patti-Anne Ali (Trinidad & Tobago)

Sasenarine Persaud (Guyana)

Satendra Nandan (Fiji)

Stella-Marie Chong Sing (Trinidad & Tobago)

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