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Screened around the world, film on Indians taken as slave labourers by British to far away Jamaica has few takers in India

Film reveals spiritual link between Jamaican Rastas and Sathus
By Rajiv Shah
While it is well known that Africans were taken as slave labourers to Americas in 18th and 19th century, few know that the British enslaved Indians, too, taking them all the way to Jamaica to work in sugar and banana plantations. A unique documentary, “Dreadlocks Story”, written, directed and produced by Linda Aïnouche, ethnographer-researcher and cultural analyst, has highlighted this unknown fact by tracing the cultural roots the Indians who over the last about two centuries have mixed with the Africans in Jamaica, a Caribbean island.
Screened in Holland, the UK, the US, the Cayman Islands, Hungary, Croatia, Belize and Poland, but still unable to find audience in India, a writeup on the film says, the documentary highlights the culture of the enslaved Indians in a new light. It particularly shows the “spiritual history” behind the dreadlocks hairstyle, pointing towards how it has its roots into the Indian sadhu tradition and how it became a symbol of fight against enslavement.
Filmed in four countries -- France, India, Jamaica and the US – and made in four different languages, French, Hindi, Jamaican Patois and English, the documentary covers “a part of Jamaican and Indian history”, says the writeup. “It also gives a new approach to sensitive topics about beliefs and taboos”, it adds.
A poster of the film
The documentary especially focuses on the hairstyle of the descendants of the Indian slaves, calling it “the most universal and unavoidable form of body art”, regretting, few have cared look into its roots, which are to found in the Hindu tradition. The film was shot in 2013, and was completed recently to be screened for public viewing.
It is based on interviews with Helene Lee, an expert in the rebel Rastafari culture in Jamaica; Prof Verene Shepherd, social historian, University of the West Indies; Prof Ajai and Laxmi Mansingh, researchers studying Indian presence in Jamaica; and Monty Howell, eldest son of Leonard Howell, top Rastafari rebel.
The film seeks to highlight how Indians and Africans joined together to “rebuild their culture suppressed by brutal stultifying European domination”, the writeup, forwarded to Counterview, says, adding, “Within this context, it is an attempt for the survival of African culture and an up-front anti-slavery, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle.”
Highlighting how the British colonists ruled in Jamaica until 1962 but Indian workers were brought to the island from 1845 to 1917 to work as slaves, the film particularly shows how both Afro-Jamaicans and Indians “were kidnapped and sent to work on sugar and banana plantations throughout Jamaica, where they created positive relationships through their common oppressive hardships.”
Linda Ainouche
“The role played by Indians in Jamaica reminds us that enslaved people have not come only from Africa”, the writeup says, adding, the film highlights how an “original and unique way of life” arose from “the cross-cultural mixing between the sons of African slaves, as well as African and Indian forced workers ‘under contract’ in the plantations.”
Enslaved Indians are followers the the Rastafari movement, an Abrahamic religion which developed in Jamaica in the 1930s to fight against slave oppression, the writeup recalls that, one of its early leaders, Leonard Percival Howell wrote a pamphlet in 1935 “under a Hindu pen name, which unveiled relevance between the lifestyles of Rastas in Jamaica and sadhus.”

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