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Cambridge Heritage Research Centre



Event Speaker: Prof. Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya (Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies School of Advanced Study, University of London)

Online via Zoom! Registration required - click here


Linguistic and Musical Heritage of Afrodescendants in South Asia

In the longue durée, voluntary Africans served as sailors, soldiers, missionaries, jurists and traders. Colonial archives and historical sources narrate the military achievements of involuntary Africans. A few enslaved Africans achieved unimaginable heights through the route of elite military slavery. Today, the majority of Afrodescendants fall below the radar and music has been a platform for carving out a new identity within postcoloniality. Cultural memories associated with Sufism are practised by many Afrodescendants in the sub-continent. A Catholic community of Afrodescendants in Sri Lanka offers a rare opportunity to consider memory and heritage within a diasporic framework. The community refer to a moribund “Portuguese” as “our language”, and the lyrics of manjas have enshrined the creolised Portuguese – Sri Lanka Portuguese (historically known as Ceylon Portuguese or Indo-Portuguese of Ceylon), the lingua franca for most of the colonial era (1505-1948). The Afro-Sri Lankan community’s dual heritage in language and music raise significant issues of safeguarding and revitalising.

Professor Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya, FRAS, is a Visiting Professor (Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan), a Visiting Fellow (University of Cambridge, UK) and a Senior Research Fellow (Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London). She is also a winner of the Rama Watamull Collaborative Lectureship award (University of Hawaii, Manoa USA). Her research explores migration, commerce and cultural exchange in the Indian Ocean; African, Malay and Portuguese diasporas within a historical, ethnomusicological and linguistic frame.


Thursday, 29 April, 2021 - 13:00 to 14:00
Contact name: 
Ben Davenport
Contact email: 
Event location: 
Online via Zoom