Ari Gautier holds up a bowl of Rougaille Mattikallu, a combination of Pondicherrian freshwater mussels and a Mauritian tomato-based gravy, finished with and a dash of Chardonnay, in a session on food as heritage and memory, with Ananya Kabir.

An online initiative aims to map India’s fading creole past, and present

Creole usually signifies a tradition ensuing from encounters between numerous European and non-European cultures. So while you assume creole you consider islands within the Caribbean or the Indian Ocean — locations the place individuals stopped over to commerce, and typically settle. The previous oceanic commerce routes too have been vital vectors of this course of.

You don’t consider India as creole, and but the crumb-fried savouries, wood window shutters, saris-blouse-petticoat mixture — are all technically creolised merchandise, an unpredictable mixture of parts from completely different cultural influences that coalesced to create a brand new tradition at a time when these different cultures have been dominant political and / or financial forces within the area.

It’s these connections and fading histories that the literary scholar Ananya Jahanara Kabir, 50 and Ari Gautier, 55, a Franco-Tamilian author from Pondicherry, are highlighting by means of a web-based challenge referred to as Le Thinnai Kreyol. Thinnai is Tamil for a form of veranda, usually a gathering place for household and neighborhood.

“We typically tend to think of the British influence on our culture, but there were so many other European powers in India, contributing to creolisation — the French, the Dutch, the Portuguese,” says Kabir, who’s presently instructing literature at King’s College, London.

Ananya’s seek for literary texts about French India drew her to Le Thinnai, a historic novel about Pondicherry, written in French, by Gautier in 2018. In March, the 2, who had already met just about and located they’d so much to speak about and share, they determined to create a digital platform the place others might take part too.

In May, Le Thinnai Kreyol was launched on Facebook. “We like to think of Thinnai Kreyol as an archipelago of fragments connecting cultures and places often considered disconnected,” says Kabir.

On the web page and of their dwell occasions, the duo and their visitor audio system focus on the meals, structure, rituals, garments, music, dance, books and languages in India that may very well be mentioned to bear parts of creolisation. One of the primary posts on Facebook, for example, was {a photograph} of the shuttered home windows referred to as jannal in Tamil and janala in Bangla, derived from the Portuguese janela. From West Africa to Australia to the Caribbean and India, this distinctive shutter is creolised utilizing native wooden and architectural frames, but is recognisable as variations of the identical European sample.

Guest audio system embody artists, intellectuals, entrepreneurs and tradition and heritage lovers. “It’s like a good dinner party, one where the guests have been chosen very carefully,” says Kabir.

For occasion, Sonia Shirsat, a fado singer, (common music from Portugal normally sung at bars and eating places) from Lisbon, was paired with Prabhu Edouard, a percussionist primarily based in Paris, to focus on the hardly ever appreciated similarities between Goa and Pondicherry as remnants of Portuguese and French India respectively.

The dwell meets, free and open to all, usually characteristic performances and cooking demonstrations. Sessions are performed in a mixture of French and English, with somewhat Tamil and Bangla phrases and phrases thrown in. “Being multi-lingual lovers of wordplay, we might introduce at will words from Norwegian, Spanish, and Portuguese, but we always explain these through our conversation,” says Gautier.

There have been six curated occasions to date, along with a weekly Sunday adda the place Kabir and Gautier chat about completely different features of creolisation.

The purpose of the challenge, although, is to discover creole parts not simply as a facet of historical past, however by means of what the 2 see because the philosophy that spawned them — that of resistance. “Even the unequal power relations, violence and colonialism, did not kill culture,” says Kabir. “Rather, creolised music, dance, food, clothes, architecture and language emerged. Creolised cultural forms resist power and hegemony, resist standardisation.”

In right this moment’s context, it’s vital to keep in mind that the thought of India is predicated on this resistance to “hegemonic master-narratives of what ‘India’ must be,” Kabir provides. “We believe people from all over India today want to rediscover how they are connected to other stories, not corralled in some watertight box.”

There is a plan to in the future take the challenge offline. “In the meanwhile,” Kabir says, “we are benefiting from a collective resourcefulness at a time when everyone is marooned in their homes and we truly are in some sense an archipelago of fragments.”