My journey: From India to Southampton

Hi, it’s Alice here. It’s not often that you get the opportunity to be fully involved in exciting projects that seem to encapsulate your interests and passions. But when The Kala Chethena Kathakali Company advertised for volunteers to support the Company with their Kathakali – Carnival Heritage Project, I was excited to really get involved and help the project grow. 
I have always been fascinated by Indian history and culture. When studying for my degree in History, many of my module choices concentrated on British-Indian history. I have also supported the Mela Festival in Southampton, an incredible one-day festival celebrating all the colour and magic of Indian music and dance. Six weeks spent exploring north India earlier this year only strengthened my interest in Indian culture. The food, the smells, the colours, the heat and the liveliness of Indian life are so strong that they do not fail to infuse into all your senses. 

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Upon my return from India, I could not wait to get more involved with the Kathakali-Carnival Heritage Project. After my initial meeting with Kalamandalam Barbara Vijayakumar and Kalamandalam Vijayakumar (they said I can call them Barbara and Vijaya for short), it became clear how passionate and committed they both are to the Kathakali traditions. They have both dedicated their lives to ensuring that this ancient tradition is not only maintained in its homeland Kerala but also can be celebrated internationally. They gave me some of DVDs which they produced about the stories and history of Kathakali enabling me to learn more about the meanings and symbolism behind this ancient and classical culture. It is therefore an honour to be working with both Barbara and Vijaya who are working so hard to keep the tradition alive; Barbara through being a Kathakali make-up specialist – the first female in the world and Vijaya as a Kathakali actor. I now have more incentives to help them bring awareness of this wonderful Indian tradition to Southampton. 

My role as a researcher is to investigate the history of South Indians who were sent by the British from Indian ports such as Calcutta and Madras and taken to the West Indies to work as indentured labourers on plantations in the Caribbean. From looking at their journey to the Caribbean as well as their life on the plantations, we will begin to better understand the roots and heritage of South Indians and Caribbeans who later came to Southampton to settle.
It has been one year since I graduated from university, so not enough time to forget my researching skills. I will be spending the next week or so with my nose in books, forging through online archives to discover the history of migration and settlement of South Indians in the Caribbean.
I will let you all know what I come across


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