the black indian ocean series visualizes the histories and futures of african-descent communities in the indian ocean region through three film screenings linked with readings and panels moderated by hiba ali. the series served as a space to connect with the african diaspora community and engage in deep dialogue about the many ways in which sacred sound connects the african diaspora in south asia and beyond.
the third and momentary concluding event of the black indian ocean series, entitled seeds of the braced bow, featured nkosenathi ernie koela’s dissertation on the shared heritage of musical braced bow, known as the malunga, chitende and umakhweyana, from india, mozambique and kwazulu-natal/swaziland. akin to the germination of airborne seeds as they travel, koela delineates how ancient african practices of sagacity travel far and wide as a living piece of memory through the music of the global african diaspora. the conversation included nkosenathi ernie koela, beheroze shroff and jazmin graves and was moderated by hiba ali.
for the second event of the black indian ocean series, we screened sheila s. Walker’s documentary, familiar faces/unexpected places: a global african diaspora, that examines the continued presences and cultural practices of the african diaspora in the americas and the indian ocean region. the screening was followed by a discussion that was guided by the assigned readings with janelle miller and sheila walker, and was moderated by hiba ali.
missed connections kicked off in march 2021 with the first public event from hiba ali’s the black indian ocean series. the inaugural event included a film screening of beheroze shroff’s compilation documentary, voices of the sidis: indians of african descent (2004- 2012), which features the sidi community of gujarat and examines the intangible cultural heritage of african descent communities. the screening was followed by a discussion with beheroze shroff and jazmin graves, moderated by hiba ali.
hiba ali is a producer of moving images, sounds, garments and words. they reside in many time zones: chicago, toronto and eugene. born in karachi, pakistan, they belong to east african, south asian and arab diasporas. they are a practitioner and (re)learner of swahili, urdu, arabic and spanish languages. they work on two long term art and publication projects: the first being an art-based phd project that examines womyn of colour’s labour, and architecture of surveillance as it exists within the monopoly of amazon (corp.) and the second being a series of works that addresses music, cloth and ritual practices that connect east africa, south asia and the arabian peninsula in the swahili-indian ocean region.
beheroze shroff is a documentary film maker and long time scholar of sidis. shroff teaches in the department of asian american studies at the university of california, irvine. born in bombay, shroff obtained her master’s in english literature from the university of bombay and went on to obtain an mfa–master of fine arts degree in film production at the university of california, los angeles. she has made five documentaries on contemporary african descended sidis of gujarat, their culture and spiritual practice. shroff was introduced to the spiritual legacy of the sidis of gujarat and their ancestral saint bava gor, from the age of seven, by her parents who became devotees of sidi saint bava gor. shroff has published widely in several journals and anthologies on different aspects of contemporary sidi life, in gujarat, india. most recently, in 2020, shroff has co-edited a three volume publication titled afro-south asia in the global african diaspora, which explores the ways in which africans and people of african descent have shaped and been shaped by the histories, cultures, and societies of south asia. her documentaries have been shown at the max planck institute in leipzig, school of oriental and african studies in london, commonwealth institute london, the schomburg library and museum of black culture in new york, the pan african film festivals in los angeles and at the nairobi and zanzibar international arts, music and film festivals, among others.
jazmin graves (she/her) is a thurgood marshall fellow in the african and african american studies program at dartmouth college and a phd candidate in the department of south asian languages and civilizations at the university of chicago. her dissertation, “songs to the african saints of india,” studies the african diaspora in western india through the lens of afro-indian devotional music and rituals. a junior research fellowship from the american institute of indian studies supported her ethnographic and archival research in india from 2018-2019. in 2018, jazmin was named one of the mipad global top 100 most influential people of african descent under 40.
sheila s walker, phd, cultural anthropologist and documentary filmmaker, has done fieldwork, lectured, and participated in intellectual and cultural events in most of africa and the global african diaspora. she is executive director of afrodiaspora, inc., the goal of which is to educate the public about the global african diaspora. her book, african roots/american cultures: africa in the creation of the americas, has a companion documentary, scattered africa: faces and voices of the african diaspora. her book, conocimiento desde adentro: los afro-sudamericanos hablan de sus pueblos y sus historias/conhecimento desde dentro: os afro-sul-americanos falam de seus povos e suas histórias/knowledge from the inside: afro-south americans speak of their people and their histories (in spanish and portuguese), features chapters by afrodescendants from all the spanish-speaking countries in south america. her most recent documentary is familiar faces/unexpected places: a global african diaspora, which was shown at the united nations as the 2018 black history month program for the un international decade for people of african descent, and was sent for showings at un information centers in the americas, africa, asia and the pacific, and europe
janelle ayana miller is a grandchild of the great migration, a midwesterner with southern inflection. her practice is rooted within familial and communal aesthetics, looking deeply into bridging self and time as an act of place-making while using modes of collage, found objects, film, food, and photography. miller has programmed film screenings at filmfront and 6018north.
nkosenathi ernie koela (mntana.wexhwele) (b.1993) is a ph.d candidate specializing in indigenous music therapies at the university of cape town. using interdisciplinary practice encompassing being an afrikan multi-instrumentalist, sound engineer/ producer, instrument maker, composer, writer, poet, playwright, director, singer, academic and dancer; koela creates textures of music embedded in afrikan spirituality. observing musical instrument connections of afrika and asia as archaeological and knowledge sites, koela explores how healing practices through sound creates space that manifests spiritually and materially.
koela has been a performer and instrumentalist for over 15 years, alongside playing instruments he also teaches others how to play traditional instruments. in this, teaching others about the instruments h’story, spiritual significance and importance. this he does as testament to his ancestry, the long line/s of traditional instrumentalists, diviners/ healers (amagqirha namaxhwele) that run in his family, who are in their own right, masters of traditional san, bantu and nguni music/heritage.
he released his first solo ‘inkaba’ an afro-spritual collection of dreams and soundscapes, (brazil, cape town), (2018). he has performed at the international fringe festival, edinburgh, (2011); the national arts festival, grahamstown, (2011); riaz festival, mozambique, (2015/2019), dance umbrella africa (2019), curitiba biennial, (2019) and re-centering afro asia orchestra, (2020), soundsscape & dreamscape ( embo ethongweni) for ithongo at southern guild & friedman bender gallery (2021).