Virtually unknown in the western world, Sidis are a small community of descendants from the Bantu people of Southeast Africa living in India and Pakistan. Their origins date back to 700 AD. when they were brought over by Portuguese and Arab slave traders. Both India and Pakistan were major colonial slave-ports, and African slaves were favored by the countries’ rulers. They are also descended from African travelers and traders who migrated across the Indian Ocean voluntarily.
Luke Duggleby is founder of The Sidi Project which aims to document Sidi culture and promote the creation of a strong Afro-Asian identity. Black descendants in North America and increasingly Latin America have unified to celebrate their unique culture, but this has not happened in the same way in Asia.
Largely due to their scattered presence and their lack of a real unified social group, the Africans of South Asia have largely been over-looked by academics and researchers, unlike those who crossed the Atlantic. Yet it is a trade route of much greater age and one of equal importance that needs further study and documentation, so that the history of these Afro-Asian communities will not be lost in future generations.
Despite their small numbers Sidi have a history of political prowess and influence in India.
The State of Bengal was even ruled by Ethiopians for three years before being defeated and several Princely State’s in Western India were controlled by African’s, descendants of which are still alive today.
Although they have lost much of their culture due to assimilation, they have retained their very distinct African music.
Pakistan is home to the largest community of African descendants living in Asia (who are known there as the Sheedi), numbering around 50,000. Many live in abject poverty without access to proper education or employment.