Africans in Sri Lanka

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African Sri Lankans
Total population
Few thousand (2005)[1]
~1,000 (2009)[2]
Regions with significant populations
 Sri Lanka ~1,000[2]
Negombo [2]
Trincomalee [2]
Batticaloa [2]
Sri Lanka Kaffir language, Sinhala, Tamil language, Sri Lankan Portuguese Creole
Originally Sunni Islam
Roman Catholicism and Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Demographics of Mozambique, Burgher people, Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils

African Sri Lankans, mainly the Sri Lanka Kaffirs, are a very small Ethnic group in Sri Lanka who are descendants of slaves that were brought into the island by Portuguese colonists in the 17th century. There are currently around 1000 African Sri Lankans. They live in pockets of communities along the island's coastal regions of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Negambo. The Portuguese colonists used them to fight the Ceylonese Kings.[3]

The main African Sri Lankans are known as Kaffirs. This term is not used as a racial pejorative as in other parts of the world. They were originally Muslims but many have now converted to Catholicism and Buddhism. They speak a lyrical creole language with a mix of native Sinhalese and Tamil.



Main article: Nittaewo

The Nittaewo are a lost race of dwarfish men said to have lived in the Mahalenama region now within the Yala East Intermediate Zone and the Tamankaduva area. These folk are believed to have been exterminated by the Veddas about 250 years ago.[4]

Sri Lanka Kaffirs[edit]

Main article: Sri Lanka Kaffirs

The Sri Lankan Kaffirs are an ethnic group in Sri Lanka who are partially descended from 16th century Portuguese traders and the African slaves who were brought by them to work as labourers and soldiers to fight against the Sri Lankan kings.[5] They are very similar to the African populations in Iraq, Iran and Kuwait, and are known in Pakistan as Sheedis and India as Siddis.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "WWW Virtual Library Sri Lanka : Kaffirs in Sri Lanka - Descendants of enslaved Africans". 2005-07-10. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  2. ^ a b c d e [1][dead link]
  3. ^ "Sri Lanka's African slave families fade away". Retrieved 2009-11-28. 
  4. ^ "The Nittevo". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  5. ^ "Sunday Observer Magazine | - Sri Lanka". 2009-07-26. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 

External links[edit]