At an exhibition and gastronomic meeting the Mauritian poet read some of his poems. Between each poem he searched to describe and explain the history of the coolie. A couple of things that emerges from his talk, are the love for the subject, the great pleasure he finds in sharing this knowledge, and, above all, the refreshing look on a part of history, that has been obscured by the eurocentric, western viewpoint.

For those who remember the works of V.S. Naipaul and his take on history, this talk by Khal Torabully covers the same territory.

Word to Mr. Torabully (from amitavghosh blog)

“When I wrote Cale d’étoiles-coolitude, the founding book of the oceanic voyage of the coolies in 1989 (published in 1992), I wanted to pay homage to the “forgotten voices of the voyage”, the coolies’. At that time the word coolie was thought as base and derogatory, and it was a pleasure and duty for me, as a poet of plural visions and of the peripheries, to reclaim the coolie, and from this derelict history and identity, I used the term coolie to coin coolitude, very much as Aimé Césaire did for négritude (though I took my distances with any essentialist view from the outset). I carved it as the basis of a humanism of diversity born from the mosaic India migrating through indenture.”

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“I played with languages and archives, moved to silences of archives, sketched the centrality of the voyage of the coolie as a space of construction/deconstruction of identities, giving a primordial role to the ocean so as to move away from the “kala pani petrification”.”

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“In that sense, I also write about the sea and the Indian Ocean, just like you, with my own modest voice. This ocean, I am convinced, should be explored again and again, as it is a space where diversities meet, clash and emerge in new configurations of humanities. I believe time has come to gather interest on this ocean, I believe the Atlantic has had its fair share of narratives and studies, and we have to come back to Sinbad’s ocean, to re-discover it and allow articulation of other imaginaries in this matrix of globalization (with a different tinge!).”

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