This Article First Appeared In The Conversation On Feb 3, 2023
The term Siddi refers to Afro-Indians – Africans who mixed with Indians through marriage and relationships. Africans crossed the Indian Ocean and arrived in India during the 1200s, 1300s and 1400s. They were transported by Islamic invaders and Portuguese colonisers as enslaved people, palace guards, army chiefs, harem keepers, spiritual leaders, Sufi singers, dancers and treasurers.
Today, the majority of Siddis are found in the west and south-west of India, in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telangana states. As they settled, they preserved and practised their African ancestral sociocultural traditions – and also adopted local Indian traditions.
This interweaving of African and Indian cultural values gave birth to various creolised (mixed) food, music and spiritual practices.
As a diversity studies scholar, I have been researching Siddi culture for some time. Working within this community in Gujarat and Karnataka, I found that their creolised cultural practices emerged as a resistance to colonisation, racialisation and victimisation in postcolonial India.