Sri Lanka Kaffirs

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Sri Lanka Kaffirs
Total population
Few thousand (2005)[1]
~1,000 (2009)
Regions with significant populations
 Sri Lanka ~1,000
Languages
Sri Lankan Portuguese Creole, Sinhala, Tamil language
Religion
Originally folk religion,
Roman Catholic, Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Demographics of Mozambique, Burgher people, Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils

The Sri Lankan Kaffirs (cafrinhas in Portuguese, කාපිරි kāpiriyō in Sinhala, and காப்பிலி kāpili in Tamil) are an ethnic group in Sri Lanka who are partially descended from 16th century Portuguese traders and Bantu slaves who were brought by them to work as labourers and soldiers to fight against the Sinhala Kings.[2][3] They are very similar to the Zanj-descended populations in Iraq and Kuwait, and are known in Pakistan as Sheedis and in India as Siddis.[2] The Kaffirs spoke a distinctive creole based on Portuguese, the Sri Lanka Kaffir language, now extinct. Their cultural heritage includes the dance styles Kaffringna and Manja and their popular form of dance music Baila.

Etymology[edit]

The word Kaffir is an obsolete English term once used to designate natives from the African Great Lakes and Southern Africa coasts. In South Africa, it became a slur. "Kaffir" derives in turn from the Arabic kafir, "unbeliever".

It is not clear whether the Portuguese name cafrinha was derived from English "Kaffir" after the British took over Sri Lanka, or came directly from the Arabic kafir in the 16th century, when the Portuguese were buying slaves from the Arab traders. During the 16th century, the Portuguese did indeed call the peoples of Southern Africa "Cafres" - "cafrinha" is a diminutive of "Cafre".

Today, Kaffirs are Sri Lankan citizen, and do not consider it a racist slur.

History[edit]

Kaffirs have an oral history maintained by families that are descended from slaves from Africa. While Arabs were the original slave traders in the African Great Lakes slave trade, European colonialists later brought Bantu slaves to the Indian subcontinent.[2] However fragmented official documentation may be, the recent public promotion of their music and dance forms allows the broader Sri Lankan society to acknowledge and better understand Kaffir history.[3]

Historical records indicate that Portuguese traders brought Siddis to the Indian subcontinent between 300–500 years ago.[2] The Kaffirs were brought to Sri Lanka as a source of labour between the ninth and nineteenth centuries by Arab merchants.[4]

The Portuguese, Dutch, and the British used the Kaffirs as a part of their naval forces and for domestic labor.[5] When Dutch colonialists arrived around 1600, the Kaffirs worked on cinnamon plantations along the southern coast and some had settled in the Kandyan kingdom.[6] Some research suggests that Kaffir slaves were employed as soldiers to fight against Sri Lankan kings, most likely in the Sinhalese–Portuguese War, (Mulleriyawa (1562), Randeniwela (1630), Gannoruwa (1638)).[7]

Demography[edit]

The descendants of the freed Kaffir slaves are still a distinctive community are mainly found in the former occupied territories of the Portuguese colonists, mainly near Puttalam, in the North Western Province of Sri Lanka but also in areas such as Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Negombo.[citation needed] There was some contact between the Kaffir and the Burghers, communities of partly European ancestry on the East coast of Sri Lanka.[citation needed]

Religion[edit]

Sri Lanka Kaffirs were originally adhered to traditional faiths.[citation needed] However, they now practice religions from Catholicism to Buddhism.[citation needed]

Culture[edit]

Sri Lanka Kaffir culture is a direct link back to their distant past in the African Great Lakes, which is rapidly disappearing.

Music[edit]

Main article: Baila

Baila is a form of dance music popular in Sri Lanka, originating centuries ago among the Kaffirs or Afro-Sinhalese communities (mixed communities consisting of Portuguese, Bantu and native Sinhalese people), and was later amalgamated with European instruments and eastern and western rhythms, especially rhythms found in Spain and northern European folk music.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.lankalibrary.com/cul/kaffirs.htm
  2. ^ a b c d Shah, Anish M.; et al. (15 July 2011). "Indian Siddis: African Descendants with Indian Admixture". American Journal of Human Genetics 89 (1): 154–161. doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2011.05.030. Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  3. ^ a b http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2009/07/26/mag05.asp
  4. ^ de Silva Jayasuriya, S. (2008). African identity in Asia: Cultural Effects of Forced Migration
  5. ^ de Silva Jayasuriya, S. (1999). Portuguese in Sri Lanka: influence of substratum languages. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland 9(2): 251-270.
  6. ^ de Silva Jayasuriya, S. (2006). Trading on a thalassic network: African migrations across the Indian Ocean. International Social Science Journal 58 (188), 215-225.
  7. ^ de Silva Jayasuriya, S. (2006). Trading on a thalassic network: African migrations across the Indian Ocean. International Social Science Journal 58(188), 215-225

External links[edit]