The Portuguese colonisation of Goa and migration to East Africa

This piece was previously published in the Goanet Reader: May 22nd  2005

We often think of migration as moving between two places, my story is one of many journeys that spans the generations.

I was born in what was then Tanganyika and is now Tanzania, into a Catholic family originating from Goa, India. As a child, I was exposed to multiple heritages and languages; Maragoli, Swahili, Konkani and English. My family’s migration history began with my great-grandfather leaving Goa to work in Burma and both sets of grandparents subsequently migrated to Tanganyika. My parents own double migration took them first to Kenya in 1967 and then to New Zealand in 1975.

Leaving Africa was a result of the unease caused by the expulsion of ‘Asians’ — meaning people from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India — from neighbouring Uganda in 1972. East Africa in the early 1970s saw increasing crime targeted against Indian people, who were the shop owners and business people and our daily lives were being increasingly affected by the process of ‘Kenyanisation’, which privileged Kenyans over all others.

I recall going to sleep frightened and being told to pray for safety. My parents wanted to live away from fear, be able to take advantage of educational opportunities and above all build “a better life” for their children.

In 1975, they decided to emigrate and after some failed attempts to get to the United States we made arrangements to move to New Zealand. Our family knew little about this country; one promotional film and a friend who lived in Wellington. In order to afford the cost of the airfare, we had to sell virtually all our possessions, others were given away, even my parents wedding presents were left behind.

To understand my family history of migration, it is important to put it in context. Goa is located in the middle of an abundant coastal strip on the south west Coast of India which has an area of 3,701 square kilometres and a primarily agrarian economy with, more recently, a tourism and service industry.

The name ‘Goa’ comes from ‘Gomant’ of the Mahabharata and apparently “Goa was reclaimed by Lord Parshuram from the mighty sea by shooting an arrow into it.” (Mahajan, 1978, p.22). This sounds remarkably like the Mori mythology of the discovery of the North island Maui. Goa was renowned as a port as far back as the third century BC, when Buddhism was spreading through India. It was a Portuguese colony from 1510 until 1961, at which time Goa was liberated by the Indian army. On May 31, 1987 Goa became the 25th state in the Republic of India (Newman, 1999).

The arrival of the Portuguese led to Goans becoming a migrating society. The Portuguese came to Goa “to seek Christians and spices” (Albuquerque, 1988, p.25) and Catholicism became entrenched in Goa due to the intense proselytising campaign using “bribery, threat and torture” by the Portuguese (Robinson, 2000, p.2421).

Goa’s inquisition began in 1560 and ended in 1812 (Robinson, 2000). Inquisitions were used by the Portuguese to prevent defection back to other faiths and had far reaching implications. In the laws and prohibitions of the inquisition in 1736, over 42 Hindu practices were prohibited (Newman, 1999). They were implemented through the eradication of indigenous cultural practices such as ceremonies, fasts, the use of the sacred basil or tulsi plant, flowers and leaves for ceremony or ornament and the exchange of betel and areca nuts for occasions such as marriage (Robinson, 2000). Methods such as repressive laws, demolition of temples and mosques, destruction of holy books, fines and the forcible conversion of orphans were used (Mascarenhas-Keyes, 1979).

FAR REACHING

There were other far reaching changes that took place during the occupation by the Portuguese, these included the prohibition of traditional musical instruments and singing of celebratory verses, which were replaced by Western music (Robinson, 2000). People were renamed when they converted and not permitted to use their original Hindu names. Alcohol was introduced and dietary habits changed dramatically so that foods that were once taboo, such as pork and beef, became part of the Goan diet (Mascarenhas-Keyes, 1979). Architecture changed with the Baroque style that was in vogue in Portugal becoming popular. Thus, many customs were suppressed and Goans became ‘Westernised’ to some degree as a Catholic elite who came to see themselves as a “cultivated branch of a global Portuguese civilisation” (Routledge, 2000, p.2649).

During Portuguese rule, the ancient language of Konkani was suppressed and rendered unprivileged by the enforcement of Portuguese (Newman, 1999). The result this linguistic displacement was that Goans did not develop a literature in Konkani nor could the language unite the population as several scripts (including Roman, Devanagari and Kannada) were used to write it (Newman, 1999). Konkani became the lingua de criados (language of the servants) (Routledge, 2000) as Hindu and Catholic elites turned to Marathi and Portuguese respectively. Ironically Konkani is now the ‘cement’ that binds all Goans across caste, religion and class and is affectionately termed ‘Konkani Mai’ (Newman, 1999). In 1987 Konkani was made an official language of Goa.

The Portuguese colonisation of Goa was a catalyst that led many Goans to become a mobile population. Socio-economic factors such as the taxation of land to raise funds for Portuguese expeditions, the appropriation of land from villagers leading to outsider control and the removal of people from their original source of livelihood were powerful forces in the decision to migrate. Yet Newman (1999) claims that what drove Goans to emigrate was that they valued a consumerist, bourgeois-capitalist society in Goa and sought more money, despite the relatively high incomes available at home. Historically, there has been a strong Goan ethos of moving up, caused by the small size of Goa and the inability to divide up communal land (Mascarenhas-Keyes, 1994).

As Goans began migrating, English displaced the dominance of Portuguese in the 1920s as many Goans moved to British India and other British colonies.

This migration began as a result of the declining Goan economy, which under Portuguese rule could not provide adequate employment for Goa’s population whereas new opportunities and economic development were available in British India (Nazareth, 1981). Goans first worked for the British in 1779 at the time of the French Revolution. The naval fleet of the British Indian Government was stationed in Goa and found that Christian Goans were eminently suitable to work for them because of their Western dress, diet and customs. When the fleets withdrew from Goa, many Goans went with them. In the eighteenth century Goan began trading with Mozambique, Zanzibar and East Africa. Indian independence in 1945 exacerbated the flow of migrants of Goan origin who were residing in British India (Mascarenhas-Keyes, 1979).

As English became more significant to Goans, schools began to teach it, giving more Goans the opportunity to migrate to British India. Many Goans also gained English language skills in the process of migrating to British territories, due to the greater emphasis on education and on language, as a method of upward mobility.

Goan migration to Africa was not surprising.  Indians had been traders and later sojourners as far back as three thousand years. The Indian diaspora was a 19th and 20th century development related to the impact of the British indentured labour scheme, which sought to replace slave labour with cheap and reliable labour for plantations (Sowell, 1996), or the building of railways, for example in Uganda (van den Berghe, 1970). This scheme was seen by some as a new system of slavery (Tinker, 1974) and though formally abolished in 1916 it continued until 1922 (Brah, 1996). Indian women were the second largest group transported to colonies after African women and they were subjected to fieldwork and received comparable punishment and gross indignities in the same manner. Smith (1999) suggests that the indentured labour system was as inhumane as the slave trade through the in-humanity of captivity and forced labour for capitalist gains.

Large scale migrations of Indians to Africa began with the construction of the great railway from Mombasa to Lake Victoria in Uganda in the late nineteenth century (Sowell, 1996). The British employed Indians because the Africans who owned land would only work for brief periods.

Fifteen thousand of the sixteen thousand ‘coolies’ who worked on the railroads were Indians. They were renowned for their work ethic and competitiveness, but one quarter of them died or returned disabled (Sowell, 1996). Indians (especially Goans) were recruited to run the railways after they were built (as my grandparents were) and Goans came to dominate the colonial civil services (Sowell, 1996).

Goans made up the only significant number of Christian Indians in East Africa, as it was the Catholic rather than the Hindu Goans that migrated there. Catholic Goans spoke Konkani, English or Portuguese and dressed in more Western clothing. They were further set apart from Hindus and Muslims by virtue of religion and because they ate pork and beef. For Goans, migration to Africa was intended as a way of earning some money for retirement in Goa and putting down permanent roots was not encouraged by colonial authorities (Kuper, 1979).

Asians were excluded from certain professions or from living in areas where Europeans preferred to settle, for example the fertile Kenyan highlands (Kuper, 1979). They operated within a milieu of prejudice, suspicion and disadvantage. Land was unavailable for freehold purchase and education provision was inadequate resulting in children being sent back to India (as my father was). Later on, as communities grew, special schools were established and women and children joined their men (as was the case for my mother’s family).

EVERYTHING CHANGED

Moving forward to our arrival in New Zealand everything I had ever known had changed. The availability of traditional foods, ingredients and so on was limited. The weather was cold and unfriendly, colder than anything we had experienced before. I was dismayed by the lack of wild and colourful animals.

I had also lost my place in the world, moving from a familiar social circle to where everything was now unknown. Settling in New Zealand was difficult financially, socially and emotionally. In Africa there had been a very strong Goan and Indian symbiotic community that provided cultural links. Despite being ‘foreign’ there was a sub-culture in East Africa that was supportive and understood by Africans. As Alibhai (1989, p.31) stated in an account of her life in Uganda:

The Asians had evolved a very strong network, partly because of the needs and fears that inevitably arise when groups migrate and partly because they were non-dominant in countries where they had no political power and a constant sense of being vulnerable.

In New Zealand we were different again, but less well understood. The ensuing years have  become easier and my ambivalence has decreased about whether I belong to Aotearoa.

The increase in members of the Goan and African communities have rejuvenated and inspired me and invigorated the communities I am affiliated with. The increased availability of a range of ingredients and cultural resources have also made connections with food and other cultural icons more accessible.

I prefer the plus model of identity rather than the minus one. I belong to Goa, plus East Africa plus New Zealand and the places I’ve lived and loved in. Although I experienced changes and loss integral to migration and learned first hand of the isolation that migrants can face in New Zealand (which has led me as an adult to be involved in supporting them) there were also positive implications.

The loss of traditional economic, social and familial restraints allowed me to fulfil my potential in a way that I might never have had, had I grown up in Goa or East Africa. Having to scrutinise my identity closely has led me to see the world through many eyes (an important requirement for an educator) as Edward Said states: “The essential privilege of exile is to have, not just one set of eyes but half a dozen, each of them corresponding to the places you have been.” I believe that my migration and travel experiences give me many ways of seeing the world and that the migrants that come to Aotearoa enrich the country with their lives and experiences.

The Art of Walking Upright Here: Realising a Multicultural Society

Background paper for the Asia:NZ Foundation’s Kiwi India Seminar Series. Auckland and Wellington, October 2004

The title of this paper is drawn from a line in a Glenn Colquhoun poem. He draws inspiration from a poem by Allen Curnow, himself inspired by the site of a skeleton of a long extinct Moa in a museum. Whilst Colquhoun’s words are undoubtedly a profound metaphor for the migrant experience, Curnow’s are, perhaps, a metaphor for our failure to adapt to change, whether as a migrant or a member of the host community:
Not I, some child born in a marvellous year, Will learn the trick of standing upright here (Curnow, 1997, p.220).

Aotearoa/New Zealand has seen a significant increase in new migrants over the last ten years. Drawn here from across the world and facing the challenges of settlement, they face another unique challenge, finding their place within a country that embraces the notion of biculturalism, where Māori are positioned as partners with the Crown. As New Zealand society becomes increasingly multi-cultural, it is still required to negotiate the bi-cultural discourses of Māori which some argue positions migrants from places such as India as outsiders. In this presentation I will introduce myself briefly and outline the challenges facing Indian communities in New Zealand by drawing together the history of migration to New Zealand and outlining some possibilities for the future.

Migrants in Aotearoa/New Zealand
New Zealand is viewed as a nation of immigrants, and immigration has been an important factor in economic growth and social development. One in five New Zealand residents was born overseas and this rises to one in three people in the Auckland region (Statistics New Zealand, 2003). The Treaty of Waitangi/Te Tiriti o Waitangi is the founding document of the nation state, recognising Māori as ‘tangata whenua’ (Roscoe, 1999). Te Tiriti defines “principles of partnership, participation, protection and equity” (Cooney, 1994, p.9). Yet this benign notion of ‘settlerhood’ contrasts sharply with the end result of a process that has led to the traumatic colonisation and dispossession of Māori. Favourable policies resulted in subsequent waves of migrants of European descent, resulting in a dominance of this group such that Māori became the ‘other’ in their own land (Du Plessis & Alice, 1998).
The visibly different migrant, such as Indians, Chinese and Pacific Islanders, became ‘others’ because of their physical appearance, religion or culture but without the status of the indigenous Māori (Du Plessis & Alice, 1998). Most Indians migrated to New Zealand from Gujarat and Punjab then from Fiji and. About 200 came from Uganda as refuges in 1971. One of the first Indians to arrive in New Zealand was thought to be a Goan nicknamed “Black Peter” (Edward Peters) in 1853 (Leckie, 1995). The first Chinese arrived in 1866 (Roscoe, 1999). A fear of the impact of foreigners led to restrictive laws being introduced between 1870 and 1899 and these were only repealed later when new sources of labour were required.

In the last few decades other trends have impacted on migration patterns. The first being an initial increase in migration from the Pacific Islands in the second half of the 1970s and again following the Fiji coup in 1987. Pacific Islands migration decreased in the 1990s with a shrinkage in manufacturing jobs and the closure of factories as tariffs on imported goods were removed. An increase in Asian migration was the second immigration trend and was related to the encouragement of foreign investment in New Zealand. Refugees also arrived from Cambodia and Vietnam and migration from Hong Kong related to the return of the colony to China. The third was the increase in migration from Africa and the Middle East, predominantly from South Africa. The above trends led to an increase in the number of migrants from non-traditional source areas. Compounding these trends, there has been the noticeable increase in tension between Māori and Pākehā, particularly around grievances and claims relating to the Treaty (Pawson et al., 1996) and land issues.

Government Policy
Following World War Two, the notion of assimilation dominated. ‘Invisible’ migrants were seen as desirable and the goal was for migrants to ‘fit in’ rather than change the society they had entered. For many, therefore, change, was one-way. There was a philosophical shift in this policy when Canada and Australia embraced multiculturalism during the 1960s, which held that people had the right to retain their culture and have access to society and services without being disadvantaged (Fletcher, 1999). This transformed the notion of settlement into a two way process whereby change was required by both migrants and the host society. New Zealand policy made a strategic move towards multiculturalism in the 1986 review and subsequent 1987 Immigration Act. This Act eased access into New Zealand from non-traditional source countries and replaced entry criteria based on nationality and culture to one initially based on skills and subsequently through the introduction of a points system (Roscoe, 1999). This policy emphasis on attracting highly qualified immigrants was similar to policy changes in North America and Australia (Pernice, Trlin, Henderson, & North, 2000). The adoption of the points system in 1991 led to immigrants who had experience, skills, qualifications and money being selected for business investment in New Zealand (Ho, Cheung, Bedford, & Leung, 2000).

Implications
Changes in migration policy and the resulting increase in migration have led to much public debate fuelled also by a renaissance in Māori sovereignty, itself related to the global rise in indigenous movements since the 1970s. This has seen the re-positioning of Māori as indigenous to New Zealand and the evolution of a bicultural nationalism (Roscoe, 1999). Many vociferous opponents of increased migration argue that the ideology of multiculturalism is problematic as it negates the primacy of Māori and biculturalism. This, some argue, is problematic because Māori are indigenous, whilst migrants (and refugees) have other places that maintain and preserve their culture. Many argue that because the Treaty has not been honoured, other ethnic groups have had no other option but to relate only to the Crown.

By calling Māori ‘the first immigrants’, it is argued that the rights of Māori as first nation people are negated and their claim for special status as tangata whenua countered (Walker, 1995). The argument continues that the preamble of Te Tiriti o Waitangi allowed immigration to New Zealand from Europe, Australia and the United Kingdom and for any variation to occur, consultation with Māori is required as descendants of the Crown’s treaty partner. Walker concluded that the government consultation process with Māori was flawed because some Māori leaders were not representative and dissenting voices were ignored. Some have also argued that the points system of immigration and active encouragement of migration from non-traditional source countries was
a quick fix for rising unemployment and a stagnant economy driven by the partnership between corporate business interests and the government.

Within this debate between Pākehā and Māori, many visibly different migrants felt marginalised on two levels; firstly as outsiders to Māori and secondly as outsiders and cultural ‘other’ to Pākehā (Jaber, 1998). The process of ‘othering’ of Asian immigrants2 differs from that of Māori. Firstly, Asians are considered to be contributing to the economy even if they are ‘too successful’ by virtue of their skills and working attributes and secondly, elements of Asian culture can be commodified for consumption in the form of food and restaurants (Pawson et al., 1996). In particular this packaging absolves the consumer from caring about “the authenticity of the product, its cultural meaning, its technical sophistication or its historical origin” (Yuan, 2001, p.79). This process of consumption fetishises, foods, clothing and rituals into a decontextualised barren image. Sari material, yoga, ayurvedic medicine and Eastern spirituality have joined the list of consumables that many New Zealanders enjoy without understanding their social, political, cultural and spiritual significance. Despite the consumption of ‘Indianness’, little emphasis has been accorded to visibly different migrants in the debates over citizenship.
Roscoe (1999) sees two ways in which citizenship can be viewed; the first is civic nationalism, underpinning the discourse of multiculturalism, when a national identity is shared equally by citizens regardless of origin. Secondly, citizenship can be viewed as ‘ethnic nationalism,’ when greater standing is given to members of the dominant group.

Far from being the welcoming immigrant nation New Zealand purports to be, the paradigm of ethnic nationalism is more representative of the reality and is based around Pākehā notions of New Zealand. So, there remains a tension between the universalist, egalitarian notion of equal treatment of citizens and the need for recognition of cultural specificity. Docker and Fischer (2000) suggest that there needs to be a recognition of the politics of universalism and the politics of difference and conclude:

Thus, we experience a plethora of overlapping, competing and unresolved contradictions: colonial versus post-colonial, old settlers versus new settlers, indigenous people versus invaders, majority versus innumerable minorities, white against black or coloured, the search for a collective, inclusive or ‘national’ identity…vis-á-vis the search for individual and personal or group identity based on ethnicity, language, country of origin, or religion. All these struggles are played out on the same but rather less-than-level-playing field: social antagonisms, class and gender differences continue to play decisive roles in the game of identity recognition (Docker & Fischer, 2000, p.6).

Critics such as Thakur (1995) argue that the official rhetoric of biculturalism recognises the legitimacy of Māori and Pakeha but excludes migrant cultures that are non-white and non- indigenous. These ‘others’ are excluded from the debate on the identity and future of the country in which they live, leading writers such as Mohanram (1998, p.21) to ask “what place does the visibly different coloured immigrant occupy within the discourse of biculturalism?” This tension exists for many other groups as well, for example Wittman (1998, p.39) has commented “on the exclusionary effect of any others by the ideology of biculturalism” for Jewish people in New Zealand. Many Chinese argue that in New Zealand, a bicultural society, migrant cultures are not even relegated to the margins of society “our place is nowhere” (Yuan, 2001, p.121).

Conclusion
As the global marketplace shrinks, countries compete for people with skills and wealth creating potential. Gone are the days of relying on migrants from the traditional source countries. This transformation in migration means that there is now an urgent need for settlement focussed- resources for new migrants and refugees. New migrants need to be resourced to recognise, understand and value the special position of tangata whenua and to be able to examine their role in relation to the Treaty of Waitangi. Equally, it is necessary for immigration policy and settlement policy to be inclusive of those already here. This means not only Pākehā (represented by government) but also Māori.

Can biculturalism and multiculturalism co-exist or are they mutually exclusive? I would argue that one need not preclude the other. Recognising and celebrating the ethnic diversity of modern day New Zealand need not diminish the rights of Māori. Perhaps we can all work together to create a social and political milieu that is both universal and egalitarian: ironically something many Pakeha New Zealander’s assume already exists. In this model we treat citizens equally, celebrating their diversity but valuing as a central tenet of our society the position of the Treaty of Waitangi and its guiding principles. This ensures a unique position for Māori to be recognised as the guardians of this special land. By doing this we create a dynamic and vibrant society leaving behind a past based on fear (for loss of whiteness), grievance (for abuse of Māori rights) and invisibility (of others arriving in an already formed land).

References
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