Posted By

Tags

Girmitiyas remembered by diaspora in Wellington

Dinesh Prakash (right)receiving the community service award from Indian High Commission Second Secretary Durga Dass as Second Secretary Manoj Kumar Sahu looks on at the Girmit event in Wellington ( Photo courtesy Richard Balram Kelly)

Venu Menon
Wellington, May 15,2023

A remembrance event dedicated to their Girmitiya ancestors drew the Fiji Indian community of Wellington to the Indian Cultural Hall in Petone on May 13.

The well-attended event was marked by cultural entertainment, speeches and the distribution of awards for community service. The evening culminated with Fiji Indian ethnic cuisine that left its memory on the palate. The food was provided by the senior citizens of the community.

The Fiji Indian Association organised the event in partnership with the North Wellington Senior Citizens Club, under the theme: “Reconnecting, reclaiming, and restoring Girmit history by remembering and advocating Fijian Indian heritage, identity and diaspora.”

“Special thanks to association president Rattan Prakash for giving women a leading role in organising the event and ensuring that people of all age groups were represented in the programme on stage,” said Nirmala Balram, one of the organisers.  The other women organisers included Sunita Narayan and  Kashmir Kaur.

Host Divesh Prakash opened by “paying respects to the Girmitiya, our ancestors. We remember their experiences, the challenges, the hardships, the trauma, the blood, the sweat, the tears, the sacrifices.”

He implored the audience “not to shy away from the negative feelings that may be painful at times. But we must endure it.”

A welcome song honouring “the earth, the skies and whatever lies beyond” kicked off the programme with a moving rendition by Aparna Prakash.

Wellington Hindi School students performing on stage at the Girmit event ( photo courtesy Richard Balram Kelly)

Next, the students of the Wellington Hindi School recited a poem about the importance of nurturing the mother tongue, which was followed by a narration of the Girmitiya odyssey which began in Bharat in the late 1880s and ended with the abolition of the Indentured Labour system in 1917.

Sargam, a family choir, sang “the most famous Girmit song which describes the journey of the Girmitiya from India to Fiji.”

Jiya Balram Kelly  captured the trauma of the Girmitiya through a contemporary dance form.

Contemporary dance by Jiya Balram Kelly ( Photo courtesy Richard Balram Kelly)

Dilesh Prakash spoke of his visit to India under the Know India Programme, which was supported by the High Commission of India in New Zealand.

The fully-funded programme, launched by the Government of India in 2014, invites members of the diaspora, aged between 18 and 30, to visit India.  Prakash was one of several participants drawn from 39 countries. They visited sites in the Indian capital New Delhi, including Gandhi’s memorial at Raj Ghat, the Rashtrapathi Bhavan, the Taj Mahal, as well as other sites spread across various Indian states.

The North Wellington Senior Citizens Group, which offers elders from the Fiji Indian community an opportunity to socialise with each other, contributed songs on the occasion.

Next up on stage was Nadia Freeman of the Eastern Sound Collective which advocates for Asian music artists. She makes “politically conscious electronic pop music,” and released her first album in 2021, titled Minor Thing. This was followed by a Bhojpuri song by Rita.

Indian High Commission Second Secretary (Press, Information and Culture) Durga Dass recapped the journey of the first batch of Indentured Labourers who arrived in Fiji from India aboard the Leonidas on 14 May 1879. Since then, around 86 ships made the same journey transporting about 60,000 Indians to Fiji, Das noted.

Dass informed the audience of the announcement by the Government of Fiji declaring May 14 as a national holiday.

“It is a day to celebrate the resilience, courage, endurance and sacrifice of our forefathers and to remember their immense contribution to future generations,” Das said, adding, “India attaches great importance to Fiji and its people.”

Dass appreciated the Fiji Indian diaspora for its commitment to maintaining close cultural links with India.

The audience burst into applause when Dass described the Fiji Indian diaspora as having “a big heart that beats with affection for New Zealand, Fiji and India.”

Dass and his colleague Second Secretary (Political and Commercial) Manoj Kumar Sahu then gave away awards for community service to James Sashi Singh (who was represented by a friend), Dinesh Prakash, Ajendra Jokhan and Deo Narayan.

The evening closed with popular Fiji Indian artist Jimi Nathu belting out his signature songs on stage, followed by vocalist Prakash (who came all the way from Australia) and Harsha on the tabla.

Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share this story

Related Stories

Indian Newslink

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement