The international multimedia research project Bidesia on the history of Hindu migration and their culture will be launched in January 2005. This project has been made possible by a recent government subsidy of almost 118,000 euros from the HGIS homogenous group for international collaboration. 'We are very pleased with it,' says the director of the Amsterdam Tropical Museum Lejo Schenk.
Bidesia will use characteristic expressions of culture such as language and music to document the history of the migration of Hindus in India, Surinam and the Netherlands. 'The project is a unique joint venture between three countries', says an enthusiastic Lejo Schenk. The institutes involved are the Tropical Museum, India's GB Pant Social Science Institute and the Anton de Kom University Institute for Social Science Research in Surinam.
The project's name relates to Bidesia, the centuries-old tradition of poetry-reciting and singing that originated in the Indian states Uttar Pradesh and Bihar (i.e. the former Hindustan). In the 19th Century, many contract workers were drawn from this region for the heavy work needed on the plantations in Surinam and in the Caribbean Region. Note that the word 'Bidesh' is Hindi for 'foreigner' or 'stranger'.
The Bidesia participants want to obtain new historical insights from the project and, by the end of 2007, publish a book of poems and photos, organise an international poetry workshop and put on exhibitions in the three participating countries. Shenk concludes: 'To summarise, the project is of historic importance and will also make a positive contribution to the living culture of Hindus all over the world.'