Cultural

“Not yet out of sight, not yet out of reach” Chagos themed poetry live in London this Tuesday

Posted in Benjamin Zephaniah, Cultural, Environment, events, MPA on July 31st, 2015 by Warren Paull – Be the first to comment

 

You can hear a reading of the poem from 7PM at Market Bar in Dalston

You can hear a reading of the poem from 7PM at Market Bar in Dalston

Saradha Soobrayen’s poem ‘Their homecoming is not yet out of reach, not yet out of sight,’ has won 1st Prize in the Pacuare Poetry Competition. The poem itself looks at the connection between environmentalism and the Chagossian fight for return, emphasising the positive and intrinsic relationship between Chagossians and their homeland.

As part of the celebrations, you can hear a live reading of the poem on Tuesday 14thJune at 7pm at the Ridley Market Bar, Dalston London. All are welcome to the event. There is a voluntary £5 suggested donation for attendance, which goes towards maintenance of the Pacure Nature Reserve.

The Judges awarded the title of Poet Laureate of the Pacure Nature Reserve for 2016 to Saradha who was born in London of Mauritian heritage. Commenting on their decision the judges praised the poem’s key winning qualities: clear and wise communication, responsiveness, and specificity in the poem’s attention. to detail and the way it linked the Chagossians deportation, the military base which replaced their society and the establishment of the controversial Marine Protected Area in 2010 especially impressed the judges:

 

Snippet of text from 'Not yet out of sight, not yet out of reach'

Snippet of text from ‘Not yet out of sight, not yet out of reach’

 

The below extract from ‘Not yet out of sight, not yet out of reach’ , considers the experience of many Chagossians who were forced from their homeland as children and into lifelong exile, leaving a legacy of displacement for future generations.

 

Every time he slides out a memory, a child slips back,

and boards the boat. The man considers what the child

 

knew then—the forced removal—the longing to return.

The Archipelago remembers him as a boy and each generation

 

is charged to remember the Archipelago. The past is tidal

in their minds or shall I say in their souls while the land waits

 

to recover the older selves, tonton, tantinn, gran-per, gran-mer,

a dying community, separated by unseen things, spirit from sea,

 

hope from land and yet united by wishful thinking, mouth

by mouth, their communal truths told in one continuous breath.

 

The winning poem is part of a book-length sequence written to raise awareness of the depopulation of the Chagos Archipelago and to attract funds to benefit the Chagossian community living in extreme difficulty in exile. Saradha plans to write 2000 lines of poetry to represent not only the 2000 islanders forcibly removed from the Chagos Archipelago but to also commemorate the lives of ancestors and those who have recently departed. Future poems will draw upon the experiences of the various Chagossian groups and their supporters, as well as on the vital contribution from historians, conservationists, anthropologists, law academics and politicians.

Through literature, art and collaborartive work, Saradha will also be exploring ways of engaging, celebrating Chagossian cultural heritage to enhance the lives of the current and future generations of Chagossians currently living in exile in Crawley, London, Manchester, Mauritius and the Seychelles.

To find out more, or to get involved you can contact us at ukchagos@gmail.com

Visit saradhasoobrayen.com to read the latest Chagos poems, or follow Saradha on twitter soundslikeroootshoc @saradharootschoc for news of forthcoming performances.

University of Greenwich Chagos Socio-Legal Conference

Posted in Campaign, coverage, Cultural, Environment, Exile, FCO, Legal, MPA, Parliament, resettlement, Return, Return 2015, Supreme Court, UN, Uncategorized on July 1st, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment
University of Greenwich, host of Monday's Chagos conference

University of Greenwich, host of Monday’s Chagos conference

On Monday a host of academics, legal experts and Chagossians came together to discuss a broad range of legal and social issues related to Chagossians enforced exile. Hosted by the Law School of the University of Greenwich, it featured prominent lawyer Phillipe Sands as keynote speaker.

Mr Sands QC has recently worked with the Mauritian Government to successfully convince an international tribunal that the UK-Government’s establishment of a Marine Protected Area in 2010 breached international law.  Analysing how race inevitably played a part in legal processes in the UK involving Chagossians, Mr Sands quoted Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird:

“in our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life.”

A range of other speakers also delivered powerful addresses. Chagos Islands All Party Parliamentary Group Coordinator David Snoxell spoke about the interplay of Parliament and the courts in the Chagossian fight for the right to return to the islands. He begins his talk by describing three “myths” of the Chagossian deportation. Later dealing with the 2004 use of Orders-in-Council (Royal Perogative) to forbid Chagossian return to the islands, he brands the move a “short sighted ploy.” Mr Snoxell’s full remarks can be read here.

Elsewhere, University of Greenwich Post-Graduate student Kinnari Bhatt presented a equally insightful address on the concept of Chagossians status as an “indigenous” people. Apologists for Chagossians’ forced exile have often argued they did not qualify for indigenous status as the islands were first populated in the 1700s. Ms Bhatt contends this idea that only a people living in a land from “time immemorial” can be called ‘indigenous’ is a flawed, eurocentric concept. A summary of her full paper of Chagossian indigenous identity can be read here.

As well as new pieces of writing, the conference was an opportunity to discuss previously published legal and political documents relating to Chagossians’ exile. As well the infamous Wikileaks revelations that the 2010 creation of the Chagos Marine Protected Area was at least in part an attempt to prevent Chagossian resettlement of their homeland, an African Union resolution from earlier this month which reiterated the group’s support for Mauritian sovereignty over the Islands.

As we get more written notes and summaries we plan to update this page so do check back for more detail in a week or so. We’ll let you know via Facebook and Twitter, so make sure you’re following us (click on the links to do so if you are not!).

Coral Frontiers: Towards a Post-Military Landscape- Architecture Project on Chagossian Return on Show Now

Posted in Cultural, Diego Garcia on June 26th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment
A 3D model of Diego Garcia, part Coral Frontiers project currently on show at RCA Battersea Campus

A 3D model of Diego Garcia, part Coral Frontiers project currently on show at RCA Battersea Campus

An exciting new architecture project centered around Chagossian return to their homeland can now be seen at the Battersea Campus of the Royal College of Art. As part of the university’s degree show, Rosa Rogina’s work Coral Frontiers: Towards a Post-Military Landscape can be seen between 25th June and 5th July, at Howie Street, London SW11 4AS.

A few months ago we reported on and went to an ‘in progress’ exhibition of the project, which Ms Rogina comments looks at “a possible shift in the balance of power” from the previously dominant colonial powers to the Chagossian people.

Having initially looked at how Chagossians were stripped of the most fundamental human rights by their forced exile, Rosa expanded her project to look at how infrastructure projects could have a positive social, environmental and economic benefit for resettled Chagossians.

Coral Frontiers: Towards a Post-Military Landscape imagines how integrating a resettled Chagossian society into the Coral Frontier programme, supported by UN Environmental Programme for biodiversity, could act as an “environmental healer” for Diego Garcia whilst providing skills and income for returned Chagossian exiles.

Roch Evenor with a mocked-up paper reporting Chagossian returning home

Roch Evenor with a mocked-up paper reporting Chagossian returning home

The military past of Diego Garcia is contrasted with a potential sustainable civilian future for Chagossians

The military past of Diego Garcia is contrasted with a potential sustainable civilian future for Chagossians

The project focuses on the potential for the a “progressive transition from a landscape dominated by an occupying army to one defined by a community of returning exiles.” Acknowledging that a continued military presence is likely at least in the short-term, Rosa is adamant that Chagossians themselves should define the new spatial configuration and architecture of their renewed society as exiles and their descendents reconnect with their homeland:

“I chose not to impose a design solution for the resettled community and leave to the Chagossians to decide how to inhabit the island. Instead, this project is a proposal for their first means of survival – the infrastructure that may sustain their resettlement,

The imagined scenario in 2036 as a successful Chagossian society replaces US military dominance of the islands

The imagined scenario in 2036 as a successful Chagossian society replaces US military dominance of the islands

One central aspect of the current exhibition looks at how coral regeneration in the lagoon of Diego Garcia, contrasting this environmentally-conscious civilian future with its role in recent years as a military hub (pictured above centre).

 

“Chagossians were not only exiled from their homeland, they have been continuously manipulated within the legal framework in order to never come back. For me, not to atone for the committed crime is often more monstrous than committing a crime in the first place.” Rosa Rogina on the recent history of the Chagossian people.

Creating the project took months of hard work and Rosa worked with a number of Chagossians, including Roch Evenor, former Chairperson of UK Chagos Support Association (pictured above right) and David J. Simon (right). As can be seen, an earlier part of the project involved Chagossians holding detailed mock-ups of a Guardian report on Chagossian return home and their renewed society’s progress.

As Rosa explained in her previous interview, her initial interest in the Chagossian story centered on just how “media plays a crucial role in the production of space.”

Speaking about her hopes for the project, Rosa adds that “I definitely hope I can help raise awareness of the cause. Even speculative architecture projects can be a very powerful tool. Resettlement of these islands is possible, its just a question of whether the people in power are willing to make it happen.”

You can see Rosa Rogina’s Coral Frontiers: Towards a Post-Military Landscape at the Battersea Camps of the Royal College of Art until 5th July (open every day 12-6PM with the exception of 3rd July).

 

 

Architecture and Activism: Chagossian Campaign Event

Posted in Campaign, Cultural, resettlement on March 6th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

For those of you not lucky enough to make it the recent Architecture and Activism at the Royal College of the Arts, we thought we’d put together a brief summary.

The event itself was a ‘progress show,’ in which the architects involved explained their projects and opened a discussion about their work. The final version of the projects, including Rosa Rogina’s ‘Right to Abode’ piece on the Chagossian struggle to return home, are scheduled to be completed this summer.

Models of certain elements of a returned Chagossian settlement will be created as part of the final project. The central feature at this exhibition, however,

Roch Evenor at the Architecture & Activism Event in Kensignton's Royal College of the Arts

Roch Evenor at the Architecture & Activism Event in Kensignton’s Royal College of the Arts

was the mocked up Guardian report of Chagossians’ winning their right to return home (pictured right)-a headline we hope to see for real in the near future.

Prior to the event Roch Evenor, former UK Chagos Support Association Chair and native of Peros Banhos, met with Ms Rogina to discuss the project. The inset picture of Mr Evenor with the mocked up paper was also taken at this meeting.

The event itself included speeches and discussions about the campaign to win justice for Chagossians and the challenges it faced. For a large number of attendees, it was the first time they had heard about the suffering and exile of the Chagossian people, and their shock and horror was clear to see. People from a variety of backgrounds found themselves able to relate to terrible injustices meted out to Chagossians.

Commenting on the event, Ms Rogina said that “I am very happy that there was a great interest shown not only from Chagossian community and the campaigners but as well from people who are not directly involved in the ‘Return 2015 Campaign’. I’ve got the impression that some potentially very interesting connections emerged from the event.”

Expanding on her plans for the project going forward, Ms Rogina added that

Now it is time to implement everything researched and discussed in the actual design proposal. Although it is a speculative project without a real commission, the idea is to use this opportunity and as a final product deliver a tangible proposal that would be later of use for the Chagossian community and ‘Return 2015 Campaign’ itself. The design process will be based on the community involvement through informal consultations and conversations about how one envisions the resettlement. It is crucial to involve possible final users through all the stages of the design and I must say I am very lucky there seems to be an interest within the Chagossian community to engage.”

Edinburgh Mural tells the story of Chagossian exile

Posted in Benjamin Zephaniah, Campaign, Cultural, Edinburgh on March 3rd, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

There’s over six thousand miles between Diego Garcia and Edinburgh. Thanks to the joint efforts of film-maker Gillian Morrison, artist Mike Greenlaw and his associate Greg Mitchell, however, one prime spot in the Scottish capital is spreading the word about the forced deportation, exile and long hard fight for return of the Chagossian people.

The exciting new art project is a powerfully simple depiction of almost half a century of injustice. Completed under the banner of Artists for Justice and Peace, the work is currently available to view at St John’s Church on Princes Street, bang in the centre of in Edinburgh. Pictures in this case paint many thousands of words so have a look below.

 

Gillian and Mike became acquainted with one another, and indeed the fight for the Chagossian justice, via the Edinburgh South ‘Yes Cafe,’ which in part acts as a social and political hub for pro-Scottish independence activists. The cafe has hosted screenings of the John Pilger film ‘Stealing a Nation’ and is planning further events to promote the Chagossian cause.

The artist Mike Greenlaw explained that St John’s had a long and proud tradition of political murals. Mike noted that “my work on the

Edinburgh South Yes Cafe, which has hosted events promoting the Chagossian campaign

Edinburgh South Yes Cafe, which has hosted events promoting the Chagossian campaign

Chagossian people’s struggle is the latest mural in a 32 year history of murals at St. John’s, which has encompassed issues such as apartheid, the conflict in Israel/Palestine, environmental Issues, world poverty and nuclear arms.”

“I hope that my work might help to raise some awareness of the plight of the people of the Chagos Islands,” he added explaining the motivation behind his choosing the Chagossian cause as the subject for his piece.

Gillian Morrison, as well as orchestrating the whole project, is currently making a film about the Chagossian people’s deportation, suffering in exile and fight to return. We look forward to seeing the final version and are hugely appreciative of Gillian’s interest in this often overlooked, appalling and ongoing human rights abuse.

Many thanks are due to Gillian who put a lot of effort into bringing this work into being, and of course to Mike for creating such a beautiful representation of the terrible injustice suffered by the Chagossian people.

Newly appointed UK Chagos Support Association Patron and celebrated poet Benjamin Zephaniah thanked those involved for their work and added that he hoped the art work would motivate people to support the return campaign.

“2015 is a massive opportunity to win a measure of justice for the Chagossian people. The Government have committed to making a decision on supporting return prior to the election, we need more people demanding our MPs support the Chagossians’ simple human right to go home. We are hugely grateful to Mike, Gillian and Greg for delivering this fantastic project and beautiful artwork, which spreads the word on the urgency of ending decades of oppression.”

The final scene of the mural, viewable above, calls on readers to take action, by writing to your MP and generally making your voice heard. We certainly echo this demand and ask everyone to take what action they can.