Siddi: India's forgotten Africans
Some 25,000 descendants of East Africa's Bantu have been living in the Indian jungles of Western Ghats. Siddi ancestors were largely brought to India as slaves. Today, they continue to live in exclusion and poverty.
Unique music and dance
The Siddi community thrive through their traditional song and dance — an integral part of their cultural identity. Manuel is a farmer in Mainalli village in Karnataka's Uttar Kannad district. In his free time, Manuel gives free dance workshops to local children so that they can pass on the Siddi culture to the next generation.
Besteung teaches a local child in Mainalli village how to play the dammam — a percussion instrument made from wood and deerskin. Typically, men play the damman as women dance to its lively beat.
Thirteen-year-old Chandrika is preparing for dhamal, a traditional Siddi tribal dance. Dhamal is an expressive dance which portrays Siddi community life. Chandrika lives in Mainalli village and loves going to school as much as she does practicing her dhamal skills.
A dance fit for kings
David is also getting ready to perform dhamal. The tribal dance was originally performed as a celebratory dance after returning from a successful hunting expedition. Dhamal had also been one of the main sources of entertainment for kings in the past. Today, Siddis dance dhamal for various occasions.
Singaporean filmmakers recreate a scene for their TV series, "Sentuhan Harapan." In this photograph, they are portraying Ravi's story, a composite character. Ravi is a bonded laborer who was beaten up by a local businessman. When Ravi refused to work for a low wage, the businessman also attacked members of Ravi's family.
More likely to be bullied at school
A young Siddi student in Yellapur recounts his experiences of discrimination and bullying while at school on the set of "Sentuhan Harapan." The student says other children do not usually want to interact with children from the Siddi community, pushing many Siddi children to drop out of school.
Mahadevi is a 75-year-old widow living in Karnataka's Magod village. Mahadevi continues to fight a court case so that she can win back the five acres of land which was illegally acquired by a forest officer after the death of her husband in 1996.
A group of young Siddi girls play at an old tree in their village of Mainalli, taking swings from its branches. As descendants of East Africa's Bantu people, Siddi ancestors were mainly brought to India as slaves by Arabs as early as the 7th Century, followed by the Portuguese and the British later on. Others came to India to work as merchants or sailors.
Nelson Mandela a hero for Siddi
A framed photo of Nelson Mandela — South-Africa's first Black head of state and anti-apartheid revolutionary — hangs in the home of a Siddi family in Talikumbri village, Karnataka. When slavery was abolished, Siddis escaped into India's deep jungles, fearing recapture and punishment. For centuries, some 25,000 descendants of the African-origin tribe have been living in almost complete obscurity.