Photo’s can help us to piece together and tell the stories about our inherited family and how our ancestors lived. For many of us there are gaps in these stories, where the missing information about the jigsaw of past connections is unavailable to us. Photo’s can give us clues about the relationships of the past: the time, place and people.
Despite the gaps however, it is crucial that we realise that we can still celebrate the legacy’s from our indentured Indian foremothers of the Caribbean (& beyond)…we can start by remembering their names, with or without a photo.
Fortunately, I am able to name three generations of Indian women in my maternal lineage, whose generational wisdom has enabled me to claim my Indian heritage in Indian diaspora. These women are the role models and ancestral energy that I can draw upon right now in this moment. This is immensely empowering when you are a dark-skinned, mixed African and Indian heritage woman. It is a blessing to have so much heritage to celebrate from both cultures.
While for some of us the term ‘coolie’ can be difficult description, baring in mind that it is often thrown at us as a term of insult; others are re-defining the word to mean that our ancestors have made a tremendous contribution to community and society through their work and toil. I like this definition.
Why should all of this even be important to us? Because we live with the legacy of those broken stories, these interruptions, for whatever reason, can powerfully affect our sense of continuity and belonging. Our Indian indentured woman-folk experienced profoundly interrupted lives along the passage from north India to the Caribbean and as we explore these stories, they can help us to formulate an understanding of our personal history and our sense of identity in the present. I am loving this journey…
For my daughters, sister, cousin, aunts and sista-friends.
A great resource for your Coolie Woman explorations is the work of Gaiutra Bahadur.