Tag Archive for: Diaspora

Its an absolute honour to announce that images from The Sidi Project will be exhibited in a solo-exhibition of around 30 pictures at the Quad Gallery at The Nelson Mandela University Faculty of Arts in South Africa. Opening on Thursday 16th August 2018 it will run in to the following week during which it will be accompanied by the ‘Being Human(e) in the 21st Century’ Conference that will run from 22nd-24th August. For more information about the conference you can visit www.bh21conference.com.

Then following on immediately on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean a number of images also from the The Sidi project will be part of a group exhibition as part of the Africa Photo Festival New York which is open to the public on 25th-26th August 2018 at 2031 Fifth Avenue. Details are below.



For the last week I have been in Sri Lanka furthering my documentation of the Afro-Sri Lankan community living here. First brought by the Portuguese some 500 years ago, African slaves arrived in Sri Lankan over the next 300 years until the British, who were also heavily involved in the Indian Ocean slave trade, voted in Parliament to end it.

Daisy Perela, now 63, holds a photograph of her younger self close to Kalypitiya. September 2017. Original photographer unknown. Image copyright Luke Duggleby/The Sidi Project

Following the Abolition of Slavery all slaves one the island were freed and having no where to return to they remained. Many took jobs in the British administration that controlled the island until 1947 working in various professions from security guards, nurses, labourers to drivers and they gradually assimilated in to Sri Lankan society.

Today, the vast majority of Afro-Sri Lankans live in the Northwest coastal region close to the town of Puttalam and here is where I am spending the majority of my time during this trip. However, a small group made-up of around 3-4 families moved to Sri Lanka’s east coast close to the town of Trincomalee. These families went there with the British, some working as security guards for British companies and others in the POW camp that was located there during WWII.

Johnson sits in his house in Puttalam town. September 2017. Image copyright Luke Duggleby/The Sidi Project


Peter Louis (left) and Justin Savior with his grand daughter attending Sunday Mass. Siriambadiya, September 2017. Image copyright Luke Duggleby/The Sidi Project

After the British left these families stayed, having married local Sri Lankan Tamil people and over a few generations the population gradually shrunk to the handful of individuals that remain there today. Sadly interaction with the Afro-Sri Lankans of Puttalam has decreased over the years, hindered by the civil war that made travelling in and out of Trincomalee very difficult and also due to family feuds.

The remaining Afro-Sri Lankan’s of Trincomalee have chosen not to celebrate their African heritage like those of Puttalam who remain proud of where they came from. During a 3-day visit to the east coast town last week some were happy to meet us and tell their stories but other families weren’t. One family even saying they didn’t want their children acknowledged as Afro-Sri Lankan.

As a result it looks likely that through inter-marriage with local Tamils in one generation any remnants of their African heritage will disappear and their culture will become confined to history books.

Solomon Matthew Linton, 59, sits in a friends house. Puttalam, September 2017. Image copyright Luke Duggleby/The Sidi Project

A few years ago the respected elder of the community in Trincomalee, Mr Mersalin Alfonso, died. Alfonso was a proud Afro-Sri Lankan and with relatives, including his brother, living in Puttalam, he kept the connection alive. It seems that a large part of this small community died with Alfonso and now the Afro-Sri Lankan’s of the Puttalam area are now the only proud holders of this African heritage.

The wedding photograph of Benedict Vancis Callistis, now 62, who married a local Sinhalese lady. September 2017. Original photographer unknown. Image copyright Luke Duggleby/The Sidi Project


This documentary is being produced by a Reporting Fellowship awarded by the South Asian Journalist Association (www.saja.org) in the U.S.

A very interesting article about the Afro Turk community in Turkey published on ibw21.org. The article written by Alev Scott was originally published on BBC.com. IBW21 (The Institute of the Black World 21st Century) is committed to building the capacity of Black communities in the U.S. to work for the social, political, economic and cultural upliftment, the development of the global Black community and an enhanced quality of life for all marginalized people.

Although some estimates put the number of Afro Turks as high as 100,000. (Credit: dpa picture alliance / Alamy)

According to the article there are approximately 100,000 Afro Turks in Turkey but the community remains relatively unknown, especially outside of the Aegean area. They were originally brought to Turkey as slave families and sent to work on the cotton fields near the port of old Smyrna (modern day Izmir) in the 18th Century.

In the villages, Afro Turks are generally accepted as part of the community (Credit: Bradley Secker)

Hatice and her son Esat in the courtyard of their home (Credit: Bradley Secker)

To read the story click here.

All images originally appeared on https://ibw21.org/editors-choice/afro-turks-lost-language-turkeys-african-descendant-population/ and credited appropriately.



2017 promises to see a lot of work produced for The Sidi Project and I will begin the year by visiting the Indian Ocean’s smallest African diaspora community on the island of Sri Lanka. Whilst African slaves were taken as far as Indonesia and China by the various colonial powers the small population of Afro-Sri Lankan’s is the most eastern surviving community of descendants. Brought over as slaves and soldiers by the Portuguese, Dutch and later the British as they jostled for control of Sri Lanka, the diaspora numbers here are small but significant in the historical role that they played on the island. Studied in depth by Professor Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya the Sri Lankan ‘kaffirs’, as they are know locally, are the at the highest risk of disappearing. Its worth mentioning that the name Kaffir on Sri Lanka has no racial connotations like it does in South Africa and the Sri Lanka’s African diaspora call themselves by that name.


By the mid-19th century, at least 6,000 Afro-Sri Lankan’s living on the island, but today their numbers have significantly decreased. Their numbers are difficult to assess with no accurate census but it is estimated that approximately 500 live on the island today mostly around the Puttalam area on the west coast but also on the east coast near the town of Trincomalee. However, because the children of Afro–Sri Lankan women who marry Sinhalese or Tamil men are not themselves counted as being Kaffir, thousands of such descendants are less conspicuous in official records, having had their African heritage obscured, if not erased.

I have long wanted to include this small but important community and the project and will finally be able to do so in a few weeks. I will keep the website updated with news from the field.