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Schomburg Exhibit "Africans in India" Travels to Guyana (Facilitated by Guyanese National and UN Department of Public Information)

Schomburg Exhibit "Africans in India" Travels to Guyana (Facilitated by Guyanese National and UN Department of Public Information)

Among the events commemorating Guyana’s Golden Jubilee was a travelling exhibition entitled, "Africans in India:  From Slaves to Generals and Rulers". The exhibition was curated by Sylviane A. Diouf, Director of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library, and Kenneth X. Robbins, collector and expert in Indian art https://www.nypl.org/blog/2013/01/31/africans-india-slaves-generals-and-rulers. The exhibition recounts the history of enslaved East Africans in India and was displayed in Guyana with the kind support of the Department of Public Information of the United Nations which facilitated the exhibition in collaboration with the Schomburg Center.

The photographic exhibition which was created by the Schomburg Center, was initially launched at the United Nations Secretariat on 17 February 2016 at a formal opening ceremony in the Visitors’ Lobby at United Nations Headquarters in New York (http://www.un.org/en/events/slaveryremembranceday/index.shtml) and presented in partnership with the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations.  At the launch of the exhibition in New York, opening remarks were delivered by His Excellency Mr. Syed Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations. The photographs were subsequently displayed as a travelling exhibition in India.  

The exhibition was launched in Guyana at the Museum for African Heritage on Saturday 6 August at 2.30 PM. The magnificent photographic exhibition is of particular significance to Guyana, given that Guyanese descended from the two ethnic groups and persons of mixed race constitute as much as 80% of Guyana’s population. The launch coincided with the celebration of Guyana’s Golden Jubilee, as well as the annual celebration of Emancipation which commemorates the proclamation of the freedom of enslaved Africans in the colony of British Guiana on 1 August 1834, and the Museum’s observance of the International Decade for People of African Descent: http://www.un.org/en/events/africandescentdecade/

The programme (link) included the launch of a book documenting the history of one of Guyana’s first villages established by the emancipated Africans in the post emancipation period of the nineteenth century (link). This book was co-authored by retired educator and historian, Muriel Doreen Branche and her daughter, Jennifer Branche: https://www.un.int/guyana/event/book-launch-documenting-history-agricola-muriel-and-jennifer-branche

The High Commissioner of India to Guyana, His Excellency Mr. V. Mahalingam, delivered the keynote address to launch the exhibition, underscoring the important historical ties between the peoples of the Indian sub-continent and Africa (link). His Excellency traced the path of the Africans called Sidhis in India, who were believed to have come to India between the fourth and seventeenth centuries. He recalled that Bollywood had been inspired to produce a film in the 1980s about a love affair between the female Sultan of Delhi and her African army commander in the Middle Ages. His Excellency observed that the diplomatic, cultural and economic ties between India and Africa have remained robust throughout the millennia, culminating in the Third India Africa Forum Summit in October 2015 which was attended by 41 head of states from Africa and was one of the biggest events of its kind ever organised in India: (link).

The launch programme also included a presentation to the Museum of documentaries produced by a Guyanese national at the United Nations, Mary Jagdeo-Ferreira, including a contemporary documentary on the Sidhis. Some of Mary’s projects may be accessed through the following links: