History, Religion

ROOTS

Where are you from?

The habitual phrase every student encounters during there time at university. For some it was an ice-breaker, a conversation starter or perhaps a search for something in common. For me, at first, it was entertainment. Watching the puzzled look on their faces as they scramble to put together an accent that doesn’t match the stereotypical appearance. You would think a city like London that prides itself on diversity and multiculturalism would be used to accents not matching their appearances but apparently an Indian girl with an Irish accent was still fairly new to a few! Sometimes I would even get accused of putting my Northern Irish accent on…

 

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But nevertheless beneath the humor, ignorance and amusement lay a question that slowly pulled me apart. Something I wasn’t aware of that haunted me. I began to dread explaining who I was or where I called home. People began asking me-

“If India and Ireland played against each other in sport who would you support?”

 

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The habitual phrase hauntingly laughed in my face each time a person asked me where I was from. Having been born and raised in Ireland but lived much of my childhood in India from the ages of 6-11, I began to question where my loyalties lied. It lead me to many nights of ponder, reflection and contemplation when finally it hit me.

Why does one place have to define where you are from?

People of mixed ethnicity don’t seem to have a problem telling the world they are best of both and no doubt in colonial times there were many people who referred to themselves as having two nationalities or ethnicity. I began watching films to do with Africa and its colonial past with Europe, I read up on several books to do with India and its colonial past with Britain, I researched about the creole people of Louisiana, about the different races of the Caribbean and they all taught me one thing. Cultures that have mixed have resulted in wonderful creations in food, language, art and culture (Looking past the colonial oppression and unspeakable horrors). So why then must we stick to one? I always joke with my Caribbean friends that without cultural mixing of Africa and India there would essentially be no Jamaican Curry Goat and Trinidadian Roti! My point is the world would be a boring place if we all had an absolute unyielding mindset.

 

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I come from two lands rich in heritage and culture who suffered the same monstrous wounds at the unfortunate hands of the British.  They both are all too familiar with the ache of separation from their own people and land. They still have not yet forgotten the trauma of being ripped into two. Sectarianism and differences shattered India and Ireland and in order for some peace to remain – Pakistan and Northern Ireland were born.

Instead of uniting together in their similarities the lost brothers and sisters slashed themselves in two. Once I realized the unnecessary pain that came with your ego stubbornly declaring who it was, I began to see how similar both places I call home actually were. Both places have outstanding breathtaking scenery untouched by the hands of man; They share equal knowledge of farming and agriculture passed down by generations; Both places are known for their wide diaspora around the globe – anywhere you go in the world there will no doubt be an Irish pub and an Indian run corner shop; Both of my people are highly enthusiastic about whiskey and being merry!The same patriotic colours pulse through our veins with pride – Green, White and Orange.

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So I came to the conclusion that although the two lands are at different corners of the world, they share a great deal of similarities that overrule the worries that the habitual phrase Where are you from? brought.

After all, we are all one and the same earthlings that originated from the same place – today we call it Africa. 

 

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Ps. Would support neither in sport – who actually cares!

 

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Fashion, History, Music

M.I.A did it FIRST!

Rihanna’s Bad Gal image wouldn’t exist without the iconic Mathangi  “Maya”  Arulpragasam, or MIA as she’s most popularly known.

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She’s a genius. An authentic musician and artist, way ahead of her time. MIA is one of the first artists to use the vaporwave aesthetic in her videos. By combining so many different influences from various cultures around the globe along with artistic interpretations, her music sends a political statement.

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A woman of colour, with Sri Lankan and Tamil origins. Her father was involved in  Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS), a political Tamil group affiliated with the LTTE. As a result she spent 11 years of her life in hiding (real bad gal vibez) but moved back to West London later.

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Her music is not about generating as much sales as possible, it’s about REAL music. Her music doesn’t fit in the molds of the ‘norm’, i.e. the charts.  M.I.A’s music is about pleasing the artistic brain in the listener. Whereas artists such as Rihanna or Katy Perry, or even Lady Gaga are made to appeal to a certain audience.  One thing is for sure, she can appeal to the mainstream audience if she really wanted to – we seen that with her Paper Planes tune.

 

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Her visual’s are not only inspiring but extremely creative. In her ‘XXXO’ video, directed by herself, she includes animated web graphics associated with social networking sites as if to mimic the new generations craze of social media. At the end of the video she even writes “Thank you for adding me” which was typical of Facebook and MySpace in 2007/2008. None of this was ever done before.

 

BUT alas, how you ask, has this 42 year old mother of two contributed to Riri’s savage image?

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M.I.A. ‘Boyz’ was released in June 2009 and Rihanna’s ‘Rude boy’ was released in February 2010…

 

M.I.A.’s ‘Jimmy’ was released in June 2009 and Rihanna’s ‘Where have you been’ was released in April 2012.

Coincidence or?

Plus I always loved how she incorporated her Asian roots with western culture, so original. I can’t emphasize how different this millennial would have been without her.  The amount of artists, hits & sub-cultures that were influenced by M.I.A is crazy. Rihanna is just one.

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History, Travel

Who are the Black Irish?

Fun fact; did you know the Barbadian singer and fashion icon Rihanna has Irish ancestry?

Indeed, through her father, the ‘Work’ singer has what Bajan’s call ‘Redleg’ genes. Many of the Redlegs’ ancestors were forcibly transported by Oliver Cromwell consequent to his Conquest of Ireland. Others had originally arrived on the shores of Barbados in the early 17th century as “indentured servants”. History books will tell a different tale of these ”indentured servants” but luckily I have stumbled upon an informative article (with picture evidence) of today’s Bajan Redlegs.

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Rihanna and her father Ronald Fenty

 

Written by Irish photographer Sheena Jolley – “In all, more than 50,000 Irish were transported from Ireland to Barbados (more were sent to other islands in the West Indies), many of them prisoners captured by Oliver Cromwell during the wars in Ireland and Scotland and following the Monmouth Rebellion. The slaves became known as Redlegs, almost certainly a reference to the sunburn they picked up in the hot tropical sun.”
“Today, the few hundred remaining Redlegs in Barbados, also known as the Baccra, a name they were given as they were only allowed to sit in the back row at church, stand out as anomalies in a predominantly black population, struggling for survival in a society that has no niche for them, looked down upon by both blacks and better-off whites.”

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Danny Fenty as described by Sheena- “He is related to the singer Rianna whose immediate family originated from the same district.”

 

Sheena continues to explain – “The Redlegs have retained a racial pride and a degree of aloofness from their black neighbors, mostly marrying within their own community. They do not know much about Ireland except that some of their ancestors came from there. Though one man I met, Wilson Norris, is passionate about Irish music and has a collection of CDs, these people are poor and their main concentration is on survival, not the past.”

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Erlene Downie (left) and Betty Fenty, who is the great aunt of singer Rihanna.

 

By the 18th century, the Irish slaves became less common as they were now paid. African slaves were trained in all necessary trades, so there was no demand for paid white labour. The Redlegs, in turn, were unwilling to work alongside the freed slave population on the plantations. Therefore, most tried to emigrate to other British colonies whenever the opportunity arose, which reduced the white population to a small minority; and most of the white population that chose to stay eked out, at best, a subsistence living.

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As Sheena describes in her post “George Highland Hickson with his breadfruit tree.”

The Redleg descendants of indentured servants today are extremely poor, almost all living in shacks in the countryside. Many Redlegs reside in St. John’s Parish. For the small Redleg community still living on Barbados, most live a poorer standard of life than the black population, relying on farming or running small shops and brothels that serve the wealthier black population.

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Erlene Downie being helped back to her own house by daughters Hazel (on left) and Ann (on right) and serenaded by Willie Kerr of The Merrymen band so well known in Barbados for years.”

Oliver Cromwell is highly controversial among historians for his brutality in Ireland. But it is argued he is to blame for the worst atrocities committed in Ireland, such as mass evictions, killings and deportation of over 50,000 men, women and children as prisoners of war and indentured servants to Bermuda and Barbados. Some even say he is to blame for the famine and the plague which resulted after the wars which came as a result of the Cromwellian conquest.

One thing is for sure though…the Irish too were once slaves; The forgotten slaves.

 

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