Season 1, CHATROOM 12

The Evolution of Indian Blues, or Bidesia, in Fiji

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.
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