African origins of the Sidis of India

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Bantu origins of the Sidis of India
Abdulaziz Y. Lodhi

In his work on the Sidis of India, Abdulaziz Y. Lodhi discusses the historical experiences of a group of prominent East African ancestry in the Indian sub-continent.
Exploring linguistic developments and the role of Islam in their broader integration, the author discusses the new championing of the Swahili language of a group keen to revitalise their cultural links to Africa and reconstruct their heritage. With the group gaining wider scholarly and public recognition in recent years, Lodhi also reflects on Bantu linguistic data observable in contemporary Sidi speech and the effect of new efforts at cultural revival spearheaded by touring Sidi musical performers.

Scattered and less known communities of African descent in the Indian sub-continent, Sri Lanka and the nearby islands in the Indian Ocean are generally known as Sidi or Siddi. Their presence in India was first mentioned in colonial annals as a novelty or in Census Reports (Freeman.Grenville 1988:XVII).( 1) However, recently several serious studies about their history, social organisation, cultural and economic activity, their military exploits in the various colonial armies and their political participation have been presented at international conferences by both Indian and Western scholars (Indian Ocean Studies Conference 2002, UCLA, Jayasuriya and Pankhurst 2003).(2)


Camara (1997) reported the self-identifying ‘Afro-Indians’–Indians of African origin in India–to number about 35,000, who have settled in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka, and in the former Portuguese territories of Daman, Diu and Goa. Today their number is estimated to be 76,000 in Gujarat alone.(3) In Gujarat they are found in the districts of Ahmedabad, Amerili, Jamnagar, Junagadh, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Bharuch, Ratanpur, Surendranagar and Cutch. According to the Census Report of India (Naik & Pandya, 1981), Sidis in Gujarat in 1971 numbered about 5,000 and during the past decades their number has increased slightly and has been fairly constant there because of migration, mainly to the Mumbai region.(4) They are normally settled in areas/hamlets/ villages of their own but in Ahmedabad, Bharuch and Cutch they live in mixed areas as they do in parts of Andhra Pradesh.

These Afro-Indians are variously known as Sidhi/Sidi/Siddi or Habshi/Habsi in India, Shidi/Shidee in Pakistan and Kaffir in Sri Lanka. It is generally accepted by scholars that these ethnonyms tell us that the Sidis were in the employ of Sayyads, the Muslim rulers of India, and that many of them came from Ethiopia and Sudan in the 1500s as mercenaries and prisoners of war sold as slaves (Pankhurst 2003).(5) The Arabic religious and/or aristocratic title ‘Sayyad’ or ‘Sayyid’is usually given as the etymology of the ethnonyms Sidhi, Sidhdhi, Siddi, Sidi, or Shidi.

My recent research into the etymology of the term Sidi, and its variants, suggests a possible alternative meaning of the term Sidi. Differing from the established Arabic religious and/or aristocratic title ‘Sayyad’, ‘Sayyid’, ‘Seyyid’, Sayed or ‘Syed’ (with the non-emphatic / s / consonant ‘siin’ () (6) ultimately reduced to ‘Sidi’ in many African dialects of Arabic)(7), the term ‘saydi’, with the emphatic / / consonant ‘saad’ () not reduced, means ‘captive’ or ‘prisoner of war.’

In the past, Sudanese and Ethiopian prisoners of war were sold as slaves to other African rulers who sold them to slave traders who in turn brought them to the Middle East and India. As late as the beginning of the 20th century, in the Ottoman armies there were more than 10,000 African mercenaries spread all over the Ottoman empire. The term Sidi might have been borrowed in India from early Arabic/Ottoman usage. In pre-Ottoman period, African soldiers in India were referred to as Habshi or Habsi).(8) Early African soldiers in India appear to have been mostly freemen and mercenaries, and it has been established that there were several groups of Africans who were traders and sailors who had immigrated to India. Thus all Africans in India were not slaves nor were they of slave descent. However, Sidis in the Portuguese enclaves and most Sidi females in domestic employ in the aristocratic households were probably slaves or of slave origin.(9) Ian Hancock (PC 1996) is of the opinion that many Sidis appear to have deserted the various armies at different times and found refuge among the Gypsy/Roma already in India and also after the Roma came to Europe, and were assimilated. This is sometimes apparent in the physiognomy of some Roma with darker complexion and somewhat woolly hair.

A great majority of the Sidis of India today are Sunni Muslims, and the few Hindus and Christians are found in Daman, Goa and Karnataka.(10) The Karnataka Sidis are descendants of the deserters who left Portuguese Goa and fled to the forest across the border, and they most probably originate in Mozambique and Angola.(11)

The Sidis are loosely organised into mostly endogamous tribes or professional castes. The Royal Sidis are survivors of the former Sidi State of Jafarabad established by the Sidi Naval Chief of Janjira during the time of the warrior King Shivaji of the Maratha in the mid-1600s. These Jafarabad Sidis together with the Royal Sidis in Hyderabad, Aurangabad and the former Sidi principalities of Radhanpur in the Kathiawar region of north Gujarat, and in Sachin near the port of Surat, marry mostly among themselves or with upper class/caste Muslim Indians.(12) In some cases they have special tribal names such as the Tai of Saurashtra, the Shemali of Jambur (probably of Somali origin)(13), the Kafara(14) of Diu (probably from southern Mozambique and/or South Africa) and the Saheli(15) of Daman (probably from the Kenya-Tanzania coast). In a few cases in Cutch they also have traditional Indian caste names such as Sidhi Langa (musicians/drummers ), Sidhi Dhobi
(washermen) and Sidhi Kharwa (sailors).

The Kafara Sidi of Diu have maintained some of their East African customs and a few linguistic items. Small groups of Shemali Sidis and Saheli Sidis have kept alive some rites and rituals from their East African Bantu past, but otherwise the Sidis are de facto Indians since they speak Indian languages as their mother-tongues and practice mostly the Indian variant of Sunni Islam with the Indian Sufi cult of pir (saint) with rituals and celebrations performed at a dargah (mausoleums, shrine). At these shrines they worship also ancestors and founders of settlements (Patel 1986, Catlin 2002, Basu 2002, and Shroff 2002).(16)

There are several legends about the origins of some early Sidi settlements but so far no contemporary written record has been found to verify their early oral history or substantiate the Sidi claims of various ancestries. However, there are a few early reports by European officials and travellers and one short language study by the explorer Richard F. Burton (1851). According to one commonly accepted legend (Patel 1986), the founder of the Sidi settlement in Jambur in Gujarat is supposed to have originally come from Kano in Nigeria via the Sudan and Mecca after his Hajj pilgrimage. This leader was a wealthy merchant by the name of Bawa/Baba Ghor who first settled in the Rajpipla Hills near Bharuch and Khambat where he developed mining and trade in agate, the precious stone known as akik in India.(17) A certain variety of agate beads are known as Baba Ghori, and another maroon cornelian stone is named after his sister and successor Mai Mariyam, also known
as Mai Misra/Mishra. (18)

It appears that a large number of Sidis came, or were brought, to India from different parts of Africa as soldiers to serve in the Muslim armies of the Nawabs and Sultans, hence their Muslim faith and relative absence of the Hindu caste system among them. Many were officials in the Muslim, and later Hindu, armies and as royal bodyguards some of them rose to power in more than one place, such as Jafarabad, Radhanpur, Ahmedabad and Aurangabad. Some were singers and ceremonial drummers. In Gujarat the drummers are known as nagarchi, and the chief drummer had the title of nagarsha(h) (king of drums). In Cutch and Sindh, the Sidi singer-drummers are known as langa (male lango, female langi) and they are prestigious and respectable professionals. It is also claimed by the Shemali Sidi that one of Bawa Ghor's younger brothers was a nagarsha in the former Kingdom of Madhapur, and he is worshipped as one of the several pirs in Jambur.
Some Sidis came to India as special servants in the courts of Muslim Nawabs and Sultans, some came as herbalists and midwives, a few were brought by Indian merchants returning home from Africa, and a few were brought as domestic slaves especially in the Portuguese territories (Shirodkar 1985:27 and passim).

Noble north Indian families had a convention of keeping Habshi, or other non-Indians, as personal attendants since servants having no local social or blood connections or roots guaranteed political loyalty and security (as was the case with the Arab/Omani sultans of Zanzibar whose armed forces and administrative personnel consisted mainly of the Balochi and Makrani of Iran/Pakistan, and Cutchi/Sindhi and Pathan of north-west India). Very few African slaves were brought to the Indian sub-continent to provide cheap labour. Ownership of African slaves was an expensive affair since local Indian feudal practices related to slavery provided abundant indigenous cheap or free labour to rulers, landowners and the upper castes. The rulers of India could also obtain slaves of various categories from other parts of Asia, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. The descendants of these slaves of different origins in most Muslim societies generally cannot be distinguished as racial or ethnic groups or minorities since most of them were employed in the higher administration and the armies, serving different governments and later marrying the natives. As Bates & Rassam (1989) describe it, they were a kind of life-long servants of the ruler, rather than slaves in the Western sense.


Before the arrival of British rule in India, the Sidis were undergoing a process of assimilation, but the British divide-and-rule policy segregated the Sidi groups from one another and also from the indigenous Indian communities in which they lived. As a result, the Sidis have been ‘re-tribalised’ and have become impoverished in many areas.(19)

Those Sidi settlements in Gujarat that are organised as separate communities with a tribal system existing outside the main political stream and currents of socio-economic development have been classified by the central government as ‘scheduled tribes’ and they get central government support. Jambur Village near Madhapur with its own panchayat (five member leadership committee), a primary school and a shop, was the first Sidi enclosure to get such support (Census of India 1961). Most Sidis in Gujarat are farmers and unskilled workers, but in other regions one finds Sidi doctors, lawyers, policemen, journalists, technicians, teachers, businessmen and landowners. There is an inter-state movement to organise and unite all the Sidi groups and improve their economic conditions and raise their social status. An increasing number of them are realising economic improvement as entertainers in the growing tourist industry.


East African slaves were randomly caught, or were recruited from different tribal lands; they usually spoke related languages and several individuals came from the same area or were members of the same ethnic group. For these reasons they could communicate in an Eastern African language in the beginning, but as mixed groups, small in numbers and spread over wide areas surrounded by large Indian languages with a long tradition, they could not maintain nor transmit their original languages and cultures to future generations. Instead they became Indianised, leaving few African linguistic traces in their speech and cultural registers of terminology.
Another factor was Islam, the religion of the politically dominant section of the Indian society with whom the Sidis were initially allied, which became a common denominator of their cultural identification and also facilitated their social and linguistic integration, and economic, political and military success in many areas before the advent of the British colonial rule.

Thus the Sidis today speak Gujarati (or a mixture of Gujarati and Hindi) in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. In the district of Cutch they speak Cutchi (a dialect of Sindhi), and in Daman and Diu they speak the local Gujarati dialects with a few Swahili/Bantu words and phrases. In Sindh they speak Sindhi and also Urdu, and Dakhini in Andhra Pradesh. Other groups of Sidis speak Marathi, Malayalam, Konkani or Kannada according to their region of settlement.

Richard Burton’s wordlist of 1851 is ‘a brief and random lexicon’ (Freeman-Grenville 1988:18) of the Sidi language as spoken in coastal Sindh and Cutch at that time and contains altogether 122 words and phrases, numerals and 22 place names including some tribal homelands; the latter are all derived from languages spoken in Tanzania (Shambaa, Zigua, Ngindo and Yao) which points to the Tanzanian mainland as their original home. In other parts of the Indian sub-continent, some linguistic items from Mozambique (from Makua, Nyanja and Yao languages) and Malawi (Nyanja/Chewa) have been identified.( 20)

The following is a short list extracted from Richard Burton’s ‘Sidi’ language (collected in Sindh during 1849-50, and not claimed by him nor by the contemporary Sidis to be Swahili).

Burton’s ‘Sidi language’ Modern/Standard Swahili (based on Zanzibar Town):

moto moto (fire; hot)
komongo chuma (iron, iron bar)
maji maji (water)
nyumba nyumba (house, home)
somba samaki, insi, nswi (fish)
vura mvua (rain)
khundoro kondoo/khondoo (sheep)
mawingo mawingu (clouds)
pinde pinde (bow)
mukoki mkuki (spear)
menu meno (teeth)
nyoere nywele (hair)
muguru mguu (foot)
macho macho (eyes)
devo ndevu, devu (beard)
mototo mtoto (child, son)
baba ya baba (father)
viyakazi (daughter) vijakazi (slave girls, maids)
moya moja (one)
perhi mbili (two), pili (second)
tahtu tatu/thathu (three)
mme nne (four)
thano tano/thano (five)
thandatu sita (six)
fungate saba (seven, week) (Old Swahili ‘fungate’)
mnani nane (eight)
mpya tisa, kenda (nine)
kummi kumi (ten)
akachukola akachukua (he/she took it away)
akaje akaja (he/she came)
akanepa akanipa (he/she gave me)
akabija akauza (he/she sold it)
akafenga akaiba (he/she stole it)

Place names, languages and ethnonyms mentioned by the Sidis of Sindh and recorded by Burton (1851) are:

Lamo (Lamu along north Kenya coast)
Baramaji (Mbwamaji south of Daressalaam)
Kinkhwere (Kinghwele spoken south of Daressalaam)

Whiteley (1969:52) reported ‘…many slaves seem to have come from the coastal areas, and the ‘Sidi’ language appears to have been one they could all speak… Though they include members of some inland tribes, such as Nyamwezi and Sagara, many are easily recognizable as coastal groups, e.g. ‘Dengereko, Makonde, Matumbi, Gindo, Mudoe, Mzigra, etc.’ Mr. R. B. Patel, of Nairobi, tells me that there is still a Swahili-speaking ‘Sidi’ community in Kathiawar, in the remote Gir forest some 200 miles S.W. of Ahmedabad.’ (This Sidi community is in Jambur, the ‘negro village’ with about 150 households, which the present author visited in March 2008.)

Recent fieldwork among the Sidis in Ratanpur and Bhavnagar in Gujarat during January 2007 has yielded only about a dozen Bantu/Swahili single word items and about a dozen phrases and a couple of complete Swahili-sounding sentences, e.g. ‘Ee manamuki, wapi koenda?’ (You young woman, where are you going?). In modern Swahili it would be ‘Wee mwanamke, unakwenda wapi?’ A couple of sentences were of mixed Bantu-Gujarati construction, e.g. ‘Kulya karwa jae!’ (Let us go to eat! Bantu ‘kulya’ = to eat, eating; Gujarati ‘karwa jae’ = let us go to do). One lexical item, ‘injoro’ (curry, gravy) used in Ratanpur, is not derived from any Bantu language but rather from the Ethiopian usage ‘injira’ (or Somali ‘anjera’).(21)


In the face of globaliSation which seems to make the world become more inter-connected, ethnicity is increasingly emphasised in many parts of the world where claims to specific local identities and renewed or (re)constructed ethnicities are more loudly presented.

The Sidis of Gujarat in India are a fragmented East African community of mixed ancestry, primarily descendants of Muslim African traders, sailors and mercenaries. A few of them are of slave origin. Today they speak Gujarati and Cutchi with only a few Swahili/Bantu expressions mostly connected with their Sufi ritual dances and music.

A long period of relative Sidi isolation has been broken by both Indian and Western anthropological and historical interest in the various Sidi communities and this has given them a wider recognition both at home and abroad. In the last few years, Sidi cultural societies have been organising international festivals in Gujarat and participating in international cultural gatherings in East Africa with their song and dance troupes that have also been touring the West. These renewed contacts of the Sidis with East Africa have increased slightly the number of Swahili/Bantu word stock in their Gujarati and Cutchi; for example the Sidis, though being culturally and linguistically de facto Indian, are emphasising their African heritage and their entertainment groups are now increasingly using Swahili greetings when addressing their public, and their men dress like the East African Swahili Muslims.
An increasing number of Sidi individuals are also involved in modern sports (football) and athletics (running) especially in Pakistan, thus playing the role of an essential factor of Sidi ethnic identity.

Over the course of the last decade, several Western researchers have been emphasising the ‘Africanness’ of the Sidis and have exaggerated their ‘slave origins’ (Kjaerholm 1992, Whitehead 1997 and 1999), an exaggeration which some Sidi groups are capitalising on. Recently a couple of Sidi groups of artists have toured East Africa and Europe on a commercial basis performing Sufi dances and songs with the repertoire in Gujarati and Hindi mixed with some Swahili phrases. It seems, the Sidis are ‘adopting’ Swahili as ‘their’ ancestral language, as many African-American communities have done in the United States. Sufi cult and dance groups (e.g. the ‘Sidi Goma’ and ‘the black Sufis of Gujarat’), healing rituals, spirit possession and exorcism, and annual celebrations, have become objects of historical and social anthropological research mostly supported by Western institutions and they are increasingly becoming exotic tourist attractions. (22)

James Clifford (1997:257) rightly points out that ‘The currency of diaspora discourse extends to a wide range of populations and historical predicaments.’ Many individuals, groups and whole communities of the African diaspora around the world have reconstructed, reinvented and imagined their ancestral homeland,(23) and the Sidis of Gujarat are increasingly perceiving East Africa, misconceiving particularly Zanzibar–the central slave market of the Indian Ocean during the 18th and 19th centuries–as the home of their African ancestors and Swahili as their ancestral language. Globalisation and technological advances have strongly pushed the Sidi communities in the general trend in the world of nations becoming culturally heterogeneous, with minority languages, or minority language use, in some cases playing the role of an essential factor of ethnic identity, whether traditionally inherited or newly constructed.

* Abdulaziz Y. Lodhi is an associate professor in Swahili and Comparative Bantu at the Department of Linguistics & Philology at the Uppsala University, Sweden.
* Please send comments to
editor@pambazuka. org or comment online at http://www.pambazuk


(1) The Greco-Egyptian maritime manual Periples of the Erithraean Sea written around the first century AD mentions export of slaves from East Africa to the northern shores of the Indian Ocean, but provides no figures. In official Indian annals, the earliest mention of African presence in India is in the person of Jamaliddin bin Yakut, the stable master of Raziya Begum, Empress Radiyya of Delhi (AD 1236-40).
(2) The pioneering works highlighting the African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean and South Asia are by George Shepperson (1968) and Joseph I. Harris (1971/1977), a comparative perspective of which is provided by Edward A. Alpers (2003). CONEXOES Newsletter of the African Diaspora Research Project, Michigan State University, contains reports on extensive ongoing research in the field of African diaspora in general. Another very recent work edited by Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy and Edward A. Alpers (2004) contains a dozen different accounts of various aspects of Sidi history, culture and ethnicity in India.
(3) PC with Miss Farida Sidi of Sidi Goma Al-Mubrik Charitable Foundation, Bhavnagar, Gujarat, India.
(4) PC with various participants of the IOS 2002. In 1853 it was reported by Major Hammerton, the British Consul in Muscat, that ‘a lively slave trade existed between Zanzibar and the Indian states of Cutch and Kathiawar’ (Jayasurya and Pankhurst 2003:10). Since this trade would have by today generated tens of thousands of descendants of those ‘slaves’, it is my contention that such a ‘lively’ trade could not have existed, and that instead there were many East Africans who came to Cutch as sailors and short-term employees of the Cutchi, Sindhi and Kathiawari merchant houses. Moreover, my data collected from the archives of Zanzibar do not support the claims of a lively trade in slaves between East Africa and India during the 1850s. See also Shirodkar (1985) for the Portuguese slave trade between Mozambique and Goa.
(5) Malik Ambar, the ruler of Ahmadnagar during 1601-1626 was of Ethiopian origin and was succeeded by his son. Another African historically noted was Sidi Sayyid, a wealthy ex-slave who in 1573 built the famous Juma Masjid, the great Friday Mosque in Ahmedabad, with the help of African architects and craftsmen (Harries 1998:98). See also several studies by Richard Pankhurst on the Ethiopian diaspora in India. For details on African aristocracies in India see Robbins, Kenneth X. and John McLeod (Editors). 2006. African Elites in India: Habshi Amarat. Ahmedabad. Mapin Publishing Pvt, Ltd.
(6) Lodhi: posting to the forum
(7) The ethnonym ‘Sidi’ was taken from northern India by the British and applied to all Afro-Indians, and today it is used by many Sidis as a surname. Its earliest mention in English is by W. Bedwell in 1615 as a name or title of honour of Africans and African descendents in high position in the Middle East and India (OUP 1919).
(8) The ethnonym ‘Chaush’ used by the Sidis of Hyderabad is a Turkish loan originally meaning ‘military commander’ or ‘officer in charge’. In pre-colonial Swahili one finds chausi, shaushi and bishausi with the same connotations as in Ottoman Turkish and Hindi/Urdu.
(9) Such female domestic servants of African or mixed descent in the aristocratic households were referred to as khadi in Gujarati, which is derived from Arabic khadim (serf) and also loaned into Swahili as khadimu/hadimu.
(10) Lodhi, field notes and PC with Professor Jayanti K.Patel, Dept. of Sociology, Ahmedabad, January 1991. Patel has collected a wealth of sociological and cultural-anthropolo gical material on the Siddi of Gujarat, but almost nothing linguistic. The present writer was given the opportunity to go through Siddi wedding and other songs in Gujarati in which only a few Bantu words were identified. A couple of other non-Indic items appearing in these songs from Jambur which were not of Arabic, Persian or Turkish origin may be of Hausa, Amharic or Somali origin.
(11) It should be noted that most of the Gujarati Sidis I have spoken with categorically claim that they are not of slave descent! They are ‘Badshahi’ i.e. ‘of royal employ’ having aristocratic connections.
(12) This can be compared with the situation in Sri Lanka where in 2001 there was only one reported marriage between two Kafara Sidi partners. All other Kafara marriages involved a non-Kafara partner (PC Jayasuriya, April 2002).
(13) The term ‘Shemali’ seems to be derived from ‘somali’ which is also pronounced ‘shomali’ in various Indic langauges.
(14) The term ’Kafara’ is of Arabic origin meaning ’pagan’ and in the colonial usage of various European languages in eastern and southern Africa, it was borrowed from Swahili to mean ‘negro’ or ‘black’. The British took many southern African Kaffirs to the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius, Seychelles etc after 1847 from Kafraria, the British Cape Colony Reserve near Cape Town.
(15) The term ’Saheli’ is derived from the Swahili word ’mswahili’ originally meaning ’of/from the coast’. It is derived from Arabic swahil (coast) and swahily (of/from the coast).
(16) Updated findings of these four authors are published in Catlin-Jairazbhoy and Alpers (2004).
(17) This stone is known as akiki in Eastern Africa. It is an Arabic loanword both in the Indian and East African languages. For details of this trade, see J. Mark Kenoyer and Kuldip K. Bhan: ‘Sidis and the agate bead industry of Western India’ in Catlin-Jairazbhoy and Alpers (2004:42-61) .
(18) According to one tradition in the Dongri district of Mumbai, Mai Misra is called so because she came to India via ‘Misre’ or ‘Misar’ (Egypt).
(19) However, during the early British rule in East Africa, dozens of Cutchi and Gujarati speaking Siddi individuals and families from the ports of Mandvi and Surat immigrated to Zanzibar and Mombasa where they are today completely assimilated into the East African Swahili-speaking coastal Muslim communities. Many more were repatriated by the British and rehabilitated by the various mission stations along the East African coast and converted to Christianity. Descendants of these are today recognised as Christian first language speakers of Swahili in Mombasa, Tanga, Daressalaam and Zanzibar. However, this repatriation did not have any notable impact on India or East Africa and the diaspora in general as it was over the Atlantic in West Africa.
(20) I have recently suggested for Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy (working on the Sidis of Gujarat) and Sabir Badalkhan (working on the Sheedis of Pakistani Baluchistan) the etymology of a couple of ‘Sidi’ linguistic items, among them ‘magulman’ as Bantu ‘magulu mane’, the four legged high drum commonly used during the Sidi Sufi performances. The term ‘magulman’ is also used by the Baluchistan Shidi to refer to the songs sung with this drum, and the performance itself may be called ‘magulman’, which is sometimes pronounced as ‘mugalman’ leading some people to erroneously assume that the drum and the dances are from the Mugal court or period. The phrase ‘magulu mane’ is commonly found in several local languages of Mainland Tanzania such as Zaramo/Zalamo, Shambaa/Shambala, Bondei and Zigua/Zigula, speakers who were part of the East African diaspora to Gujarat via southern Somalia during the first three quarters of the 1800s.
(21) In the about 50 ‘Jikr’ of the Sidi lady Rumanaben Bilal of Ahmedabad collected by Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy, there are many Bantu/Swahili words, phrases and even some complete sentences, most of which are not understood by the Sidis themselves. This linguistic data together with the data from January 2007 will be analysed and published by the present writer in the near future. (22) This phenomenon has been capitalised on by several radio and TV channels such as the private station Talking Africa (June 2002, London) and the BBC which aired a series of programmes in November 2000 and an article entitled ‘The lost Africans of India’ by Andrew Whitehead of The World Today ( BBC News Online Friday 24 November, 2000). This approach has the tendency to formalize a ‘collective memory’ in the words of Robin Cohen (1997).
(23) For a broad history and deeper discussion of these issues, see Sidney Lemelle and Robin D. G. Kelly, 1994.

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