FIS Lecture on South Asian Migration to East Africa

TSU Prof. Dr. Esparza,Dean of Graduate School and Director of International programs,Dr.Gregory Maddox, Dr. Laura Fair and FIS Chairman, Krishna Vavilala.

HOUSTON: TSU presented the second India Studies program Lecture at the Texas Southern University on  Nov.2nd.2023. The program  which was sponsored by the Foundation for India Studies (FIS).

Dr. Laura Fair, Author and Prof. of Middle Eastern and African Studies in Columbia University flew from New York to present the Lecture in the School of Public Affairs auditorium. The lecture was followed by a lively Q&A session from a hall full of enthusiastic students.

Dr. Fair’s lecture was accompanied by a series of slides which depicted the history of South Asian migration to East Africa that traced back to the 19th century, driven by colonial endeavors and economic opportunities. As Indians established themselves in countries like Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, they brought with them their cultural practices, including a love for cinema. Early screenings of Indian films in makeshift theaters and community halls became a vital link to their roots, creating a sense of belonging and nostalgia.

Despite Swahili being the local language, Indian films became more popular than even Egyptian and Hollywood films and quickly found resonance within East African societies, transcending linguistic and cultural barriers. Themes of love, family, and social justice depicted in Bollywood films struck a chord with diverse audiences. As East Africans of South Asian descent grappled with issues of identity, Indian cinema provided a cultural touchstone, reinforcing their sense of heritage.

Over the decades, South Asian cinema has evolved from a peripheral influence to a central force in the East African cultural landscape.

Dr. Fair said, “This transformation reflects the dynamic interplay between migration, globalization, and the power of storytelling through cinema.”.

Dr. Fair concluded that The growth of Indian film distribution in East Africa has not only contributed to cultural enrichment but also spurred economic activity. The film industry has created employment opportunities, from distributors and exhibitors to actors and technicians. Furthermore, it has fostered partnerships between local and international stakeholders, stimulating economic growth in the region.