'The Kaffirs' of Sri Lanka

This fascinating short documentary, by filmmaker Kannan Arunasalam, tells the story of a small group of Sri Lankans of African descent and their attempts to “keep their culture alive in the face of falling numbers.”  According to Arunasalam, “… “historians say that the Kaffirs of Sri Lanka started arriving from the eastern shores of Africa in the 1500s with the Portuguese, and later in more waves with the different colonizers of Sri Lanka

Kaffir is a racist slur used by whites towards blacks in Southern Africa (it was also in wide use among whites in the West in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century).  It also means unbeliever in Arabic, so some people may be surprised about the group’s name.

Comments

comments

Sean Jacobs

Also goes by Hasan Wazan. Life President.

6 Comments
  1. what is the status of the kaffirs since the defeat of the tamils by the government? where they living in an area deeply affected by the war?

    i am a black man from new orleans, louisiana, usa. i have been following this issue mainly through film, which is one reason i was i keen to see the documentary. i like it, wished for a bit more of the filmmaker's self reflection.

    thanks to all who participated in putting this documentary together. will share it with the young people with whom i work.

  2. @ Kalamu ya Salaam:
    Not much has changed at all. There's some interest in Kaffirs as exotica of sorts, particularly in their music, but their status is neither worse or better. A somewhat similar case is that of the Iraqis of African descent.

    1. Hi Kalamu

      I intend to contact the filmmaker and have some answers to your questions

      Meanwhile as the film suggests and Ekapa conirms, the group's fate move between prejudice and spectacle

  3. Hotep Kalamu!

    I am an Afrikan American living in Sri Lanka. I am doing research on the Kaffirs or Kapiri as they are known here. It appears from what I have seen on the west coast of the island, in the area of Puttalam, that the group’s racial features are starting to disappear through intermarriage with those of other ethnicities. But that their cultural traditions, especially in song and dance, are surviving due to an interest both inside and outside the country, that brings interest and profit to those in the group of singers and dancers. For example, they will soon be traveling to Azania to perform there at the behest and invitation of South Africans who saw them perform here. Should you want more detailed impressions regarding prejudice and other forms of discrimination that we in the US are all too familiar with, please contact me….

    And while I am at it, thanks for decades of concerned service to Afrikan people.

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