Media only: James Gordon, 202.633.0520; Rebecca Fahy, 202.633.0521
Public only: 202.633.1000

May 15, 2006

History books are replete with the stories of African kings ruling their own continent. But few books relay the history of sub-Saharan Africans gaining positions of power and status on the continent of India.

On Saturday, June 10 at 2 p.m., at the Freer Gallery of Art, Kenneth Robbins, renowned South Asian scholar and author, and John McLeod, chair of the history department at the University of Louisville and a specialist in South Asian history, discuss their new book African Elites in India: Habshi Amarat. A book signing will follow.

According to the book’s liner notes:

Sub-Saharan Africans have a longstanding and distinguished presence in India, where they are most commonly known as Habshis or Sidis. Habshi is the Arabic for Abyssinian or Ethiopian, and Sidi is apparently derived from the Arabic sayyidi, “my lord.” In 1996, the authoritative Anthropological Survey of India reported sizeable communities of African ancestry in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in southern India, Gujarat in the west, and the metropolises of Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai.

The lavishly illustrated book focuses not only on the little-known group of elite sub-Saharan African-Indian merchants, soldiers, nobles, statesmen, and rulers who attained prominence in India in the fifteenth to twentieth centuries but also on Africans who served at the courts of Indian monarchs as servants, slaves, eunuchs, or concubines. Several paintings from the Freer and Sackler collection will be featured in the lecture.

For more information and to RSVP for the event call the Freer Gallery of Art at 202-633-0448 by June 7.