Season 1, CHATROOM 12

The Evolution of Indo-Fijian Blues, or Bidesia

At the turn of the 20th century, the British took Indian indentured labourers to sugar plantations in Fiji. There, Indian women would sing “bidesia” — laments for a lost homeland. In this Chatroom, acclaimed Fijian poet-philosopher Sudesh Mishra speaks of bidesia, and about Fijian indigenous knowledge systems that place humans as part of the planetary assemblage.

Time Markers (mins: sec)

  • 0:05 – Poem “The Hula Hoop”
  • 1:16 – Sudesh on writing poetry during Covid
  • 3:11 – Fiji’s history of indentured labour
  • 3:56 – Bidesia by Saraswati Devi (Bidesia Project)
  • 4:13 – Sudesh explains Bidesia, and connection with the blues
  • 5:16 – Bidesia by Priyanka Kumari (Bidesia Project)
  • 6:05 – Analogous to the blues
  • 6:49 – Sudesh sings and explains a bidesia
  • 8:23 – Western culture erases memory
  • 9:15 – The con in a can of tomatoes 
  • 10:37 – Fijians are returning to old ways due to Covid and climate change

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Reading List

Coolitude Poetics Interview with Sudesh Mishra | Jacket2. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.

Mishra, Sudesh. Lives of Coat Hangers. 2016.

Mishra, Vijay, et al. The Diasporic Imaginary and the Indian Diaspora. Asian Studies Institute, 2005.

Woznicki, Krystian. “Developing a Sense of Taking Part.” Online Open, Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.