Environment

“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!).

Coverage & Pictures from Chagossians' recent trip home

Posted in Chagos visit, coverage, Environment, Exile, Seychelles on June 2nd, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

 

Rubbish left behind by yachtspersons, who regularly visit the islands

Rubbish left behind by yachtspersons, who regularly visit the islands

A small selection of Chagossians’ recently took part in the  annual Government-supported brief trip to their homeland. This trip has been covered and photographed in excellent detail by Seychelles News Agency.

The article naturally focuses on the Seychelles-based Chagossians who made the return journey, but Chagossians living in the UK and Mauritius were also involved. Most were native-born Chagossians.

???????????????????????????????Members of the group commented that they were “impressed by the beauty of the islands.” Concerns were raised though at the pollution left by visiting yachtspersons, as was “dismay” at the general principle Chagossians were only permitted to return on strictly controlled visits whilst wealthy pleasure-sailors were frequent visitors.

It is reported Chagossians were “unanimous” that return would be possible with appropriate investment. One recognised the obvious potential for tourism, considering a de facto industry already exists.

For more wonderful pictures, see the original Seychelles News Agency article.

 

An abandoned graveyard on the Chagos Islands

An abandoned graveyard on the Chagos Islands

An abandoned house on the now totally overgrown Peros Banhos

An abandoned house on the now totally overgrown Peros Banhos