[Reader-list] [Announcements] chimurenga announcement

Rana Dasgupta rana at ranadasgupta.com
Fri Jun 20 16:47:05 IST 2008

      Chimurenga 14: Everyone Has Their Indian*

Indian traders hit the shores of Africa in 1 AD. We have no concrete  
proof of this /per se/, but all the search engines think so. The  
Africans beat them to it, beginning their trips to India (should we  
say South Asia?) many thousands of years ago ? some of them staying  
put in exactly the same spot until National Geographic showed up.  
It's true: even today, in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, you can spot  
the carefree "negrito" shooting arrows at government helicopters,  
surviving deadly tsunamis or roasting the odd tourist for dinner. We  
are reliably informed that human cargo of a more recent vintage ? the  
blob of people branded as "Africans in India" and "Indians in  
Africa" ? are behaving slightly better.

Seems like only yesterday that every self-respecting postcolony was  
calling for socialism and south-south solidarity (think "Stuck in the  
middle with you" if this last phrase makes you cringe). How things  
change. Nehru is no more and his big dams are a national nightmare,  
Nyerere is gone, taking his iron fist with him, the region politely  
referred to as South Asia is a Godly mess, Bad Bob is Mad Bob,  
someone dug up all those impolite words that Gandhi hurled at the  
Natal indigene? and, oh yes, Naipaul finally won the Nobel. Still,  
third world solidarity warmed the cockles of our coloured hearts and  
we miss it sorely. Hypocrisy just isn't the same, what with this  
economically integrated world and all.

Circa today: India is the world's favourite market ? 50 million  
engineers to the backdrop of an ancient culture. Africa is the  
world's favourite cause ? 50 million problems, and such fascinating  
wildlife. Put them together and we should have an opera of cinematic  
proportions. Instead, what we see is mere stock footage; what we  
hear, the dull drone of conventional foolishnesses volleyed across  
the Indian Ocean. It is not our intention to quibble with the great  
minds who've tackled such intercontinental themes before (not solely  
our intention, at least). Fact is, the present is a foreign country  
and people do strange things there. And we are unnaturally besotted  
with foreign countries and strange things.

Could it be true that the Mandrax currently hobbling pre-teen South  
Africa is entirely manufactured in India? Why does the Hausa film  
look like a low-budget Hindi potboiler? How is it that so many  
Nigerian footballers play for Bangladesh? Who decided that the lost  
tribes of Shiva built the foundations of Great Zimbabwe? And were  
they on Mandrax?

Today, there are all kinds of lines criss-crossing the Indian Ocean  
and they're just as likely to be drawn by governments and tourists as  
pirates and preachers. (Plus ca change, you might say, but hey,  
lineage is a line too.) The lines we are interested in are any and  
none of these and more: all we want is a new conversation.

Send your stuff to chimurenga at panafrican.co.za  
<mailto:chimurenga at panafrican.co.za> before end of July 2008.

* We don't own that phrase ? the leading brain of the legendary  
Sunday Times uttered it in a fit of worldliness, at the height of the  
Shaik opera.

C├ędric Vincent
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tel. +33 (0)1 40 37 19 73
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