Out of all the African-Diaspora communities that surround the Indian Ocean those of Sri Lanka are the smallest and the ones most at risk from disappearing. Brought over to the Spice Island first by the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the British. The Afro-Sri Lankan’s have always been known as, and indeed call themselves, by the name Kaffir. But in 2012 they were invited to perform in South Africa under the agreement that they changed their name
Some estimates put the Afro-Sri Lankan population at around 6000 people a century ago but today that number would be lucky to reach a few hundred. Inter-marriage with local Sri Lankan’s over the generations has led to a dilution of their population, which they relate almost entirely to their African appearance. Once they marry a Sinhalese and their children take on Sri Lankan appearance they no longer have ‘Kaffir’ written on their birth certificate but 'Sinhalese'.
This dilution is also something that some of the population has intentionally sort. Because they were instrumental is maintaining control for the colonial powers and worked closely with them, especially the British, they received good positions in Government and Civil society. However, after the 1940’s when the British left Sri Lanka and a wave of Nationalism swept the country they were targeted and as a result were often ignored and excluded from the positions that many had previously enjoyed. In their own words “We were pushed back down.” So some saw their children as having a better chance in life if they inter-married and now the population can now never recover because of it.
But within these small isolated communities live individuals that still maintain and enforce a sense of pride and dignity amongst their compatriots even setting up the Ceylon African Society in 2012 especially with the preserving of their traditional music and dance known as Kaffrinha which is still sung in Sri Lankan Creole language.