Herald: The Vanishing Goan Tribe

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The Vanishing Goan Tribe

23 Sep 2018 05:48am IST
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23 Sep 2018 05:48am IST

The Goan has moved all over the world and have played a positive role in the development of the place and this is visible in the contribution of Goans in East Africa. Cyprian Fernandes walks down history lane

work in progress:  In Eastern African, Goans very rarely recorded any of their quite sizeable history. Sure, there are bits and pieces here and there but nothing concise ever came out of that vast continent as far as the Goans were concerned. In recent years both fiction and non-fiction have made tiny steps towards celebrating the memory of a glorious past long lost.

With a lot of help from many people around the globe, I am going to attempt to bring together the histories of the various Goan associations in the diaspora as well as celebrating the men and women who achieved outstanding success in the service of the migrant Goan communities.

Success is not guaranteed but in Canada at least I have found a few willing hands who are already making a start. It was the Canadian Goans who pioneered their historic archives, thus established some or and protocol.

Over the next 20 years or so, the pioneer Goans who left Eastern African, Goa, the Middle East and elsewhere in the great upheaval decades of the 1960s and 1970s may no longer be with us. The vanishing of the Eastern African Goan tribe (I say Eastern Africa because that is what I will concentrate on primarily, hopefully I will get other material which will focus on the rest of the Goans in the diaspora) has already begun. 

Recently, I went to a function hosted by the NSW Goan Overseas Association. It was an outstanding success but of the mainly Eastern African Goans who founded the association there were barely 10. You really could not recognise the membership that once graced such occasions in Sydney. Once it was largely Eastern African Goans, Goans from Bandra, the Middle East, Anglo-Indians, a few Pakistani Goans and others. At the function I attended the members came mainly from Pakistan, Goa, the Middle East and other places. Once upon a time, we used to attract some 300 or more people. These days the main excuse for not attending functions is that most grandparents are too busy caring for their grandchildren or that venues are too far away as some are finding it difficult to drive at night. Without the new arrivals that have brought new strength and energy, the old GOA would have called it quits. However, this is our evolution and some of us may not like it because the cry is often after a function, “there was no one we knew there”.

Life goes on. However, I will attempt to pay tribute to the men and women and their children who worked hard so that folks new to the country would feel a little at home.

My aim is to record the histories of the various associations and in that story we will also be celebrate not only their successes but the men and women responsible for those happy times. Personal impressions of the past 58 years or more and the multitude of personal success stories.

Below is an example of the personal memories I am seeking from Goans in the diaspora. As far as I know, in East Africa we collectively committed the greatest sin … of forgetfulness. We forgot to record our own history. The great folks in Canada have made a tremendous start in at least recording their time in Canada. I have been greeted by many willing hands and some of their past work has already been featured on this website and will continue to be as their “work in progress” comes to fruition. I am hoping I can get similar evidence from the great overseas Goan colony, the United Kingdom. I hope I can attract contributions from Goans in all parts of the diaspora. If you are reading this please share it. Let us celebrate our collective achievements and successes in the new lands we call home. Let us then recognise and celebrate the leaders who galvanised the community and marshalled it towards success. Let us also celebrate and shout about the young Goan population in the diaspora that continues climb new heights of achievement in some of the most outstanding professions as well as arts and music. If we are ever asked: What did you folks do? Hopefully we can provide an answer in one document. In that spirit, I dedicate this effort to the all the folks who will take the trouble to be a part of it. 

MERVYN MACIEL: Once upon a time in the UK: As far as the U.K. is concerned, 'our tribe' is certainly diminishing - age, health concerns and sadly, those who are no longer with us. I well remember the enthusiasm at Socials when I first arrived in the 60's. Despite the cold weather, we travelled far and wide to attend social functions which were well patronised.

Later, as numbers grew and we got more settled in our respective areas, volunteers came forward to attempt to lay the foundations of what later became the Goan Association (UK).

Regular social functions were held, sporting events and an annual 'festival' where East African Goans from various parts of the country would come to savour something of 'home. Live bands, food stalls, traditional folk dances etc were all the order of the day. Goan bands began springing up like mushrooms and most were very good.

Much later, Village Associations were formed and Village Feasts were celebrated on a grand scale at popular London venues. Such functions were so popular that we had to restrict numbers and no ticket sales at the door etc. (I am recalling this from my own experience of, initially Secretary and latterly President of the Moira Association (UK). How I ever got this job I will never know since I hail from Salvador-do-Mundo - but they kept insisting "You are a grandson of Moira"!

East African and Kenya will always remain in my blood. I wake up each morning thinking of those glorious days we were privileged to experience. There is no paradise on earth to compare with East Africa (Kenya in my case) -despite some criticism from those who've never been there! In my case, my memories are more of my days spent with the pastoral tribes of Kenya's Northern Frontier (NFD). I still keep in touch with them. It was they (the tribes) who inspired me to write my first book, Bwana Karani”.

Despite being few in numbers in the Frontier, we, Goans, always met together at each other’s houses, talked about Goa and enjoyed Goan food cooked by those who were fortunate to have their wives in some parts. In many other parts, e.g. Turkana, NO WOMEN WERE ALLOWED! As for the younger generation, most of whom arrived here when very young or were born here, I don't think their attachment to East Africa is the same as ours.

But, those who were older still remember those glorious days in paradise!

   Wish you all the BAHATI (luck) in your endeavours to ensure that we are NEVER forgotten.

Cliff Pereira: Basically, I guess there are not one, but several forms of Goan diaspora, some ancient, as in here in Hong Kong and Singapore who are known respectively as Hong Kong Portuguese or Singapore Eurasian.  Others are formed within the last 150 years, such as the Bombay, Karachi, Aden and East African Goans, and then the most recent such as the "Gulfies" or famous "Swindon Goans" and groups that availed of Portuguese passports in Goa. Apart for the last group all are the result of multiple global migrations and indeed can literally be found on 6 of the 7 continents today. As far as I know there are no Goans in Antarctica. 

The processes of acculturation vary with time and distance from Goa. The most "Goan" (and in this case we are talking about Christian Goans) are of course those that recently migrated and those that migrated to other parts of India. The least "Goan" are those who migrated centuries ago and are now part of quite different and distinct ethnic groups (Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malacca, and Penang). For these only the memory of being of Goan origin survives. East African Goans are somewhere in the middle, though with each passing day that community is becoming less genetically and culturally Goan. It is already a non-Konkani literate group, and with the passing of the elders who were the first to be born in East Africa (like Ferdie Rodrigues), plus the high rate of mixed marriages, high educational levels and adoption of principally English (but also Portuguese and French), this community is becoming thoroughly assimilated with the host communities. The pattern of assimilation is typical of any immigrant group, but given that Catholicism is not an ethnic minority language in most of the destination countries, Goans have made a more positive assimilation then say Jews, Muslims or indeed Hindus.
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