The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean
February 6, 2014 7:36 AM   Subscribe

Over the course of nearly 20 centuries, millions of East Africans crossed the Indian Ocean and its several seas and adjoining bodies of water in their journey to distant lands, from Arabia and Iraq to India and Sri Lanka. Called Kaffir, Siddi, Habshi, or Zanji, these men, women and children from Sudan in the north to Mozambique in the south Africanized the Indian Ocean world and helped shape the societies they entered and made their own. Free or enslaved, soldiers, servants, sailors, merchants, mystics, musicians, commanders, nurses, or founders of dynasties, they contributed their cultures, talents, skills and labor to their new world, as millions of their descendants continue to do. Yet, their heroic odyssey remains little known. The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean World traces a truly unique and fascinating story of struggles and achievements across a variety of societies, cultures, religions, languages and times.
posted by infini (9 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Holy shit, this is 100% relevant to a class I just started. Thanks!
posted by COBRA! at 7:44 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is terrific—I thought I knew something about the Indian Ocean world, but I had never thought about this aspect of it. Thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 8:38 AM on February 6, 2014

Great post. We actually have evidence of modern human populations migrating out of East Africa as early as 125,000 ka. There is also overwhelming evidence of a hominin migration out of East Africa to the Arabian Peninsula as evidenced by the numerous Acheulean sites extant in the archaeological record. Unlike the East African record we don't have firm dates, but based on lithic typology the Acheulean migration can be tentatively dated to between 1.4 ma and 800,000 ka.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:00 AM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oops I forgot to add this link.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:19 AM on February 6, 2014

Then there's this, apparently suggesting an otherwise unrecorded migration from East Africa to the Southern tip of Africa about 3000 years ago, by a population apparently carrying Iberian and ancient Mediterranean DNA.
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:40 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sonny Jim, I came in to add just that ... fascinating isn't it? I'd love to read an alternate history of that reverse migration, or was it truly an island in the sea of time?
posted by infini at 11:50 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

languagehat, if you don't already follow @bintbattuta on twitter, then I highly recommend the account for all such varieties of fascinating stuff. A translator with an interest in languages, I believe. Based out of Bahrain and Bangalore.
posted by infini at 11:55 AM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sadly they don't mention Yasuke, a retainer for the Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga from Mozambique who appears to be the first samurai of foreign origin, a few decades before Will Adams' time.
posted by sukeban at 1:18 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

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