To liberate the senses in order to heal colonial wounds today characterises the practice of decolonial artists and thinkers questioning modern/colonial institutions such as universities and museums. In this blog post, ISS PhD researcher Zuleika Bibi Sheik offers us the gift of poetry as an invitation to take into account the role of dominant Western knowledge frameworks and knowing practices in the colonisation of our senses and perceptions.
I am hungry for it.
With gluttonous abandon,
I devour it.
Leaving you depleted.
Still you come back for more.
Why? Because I promised you something.
A piece of paper.
Ah…your ancestors fell for that too.
So many generations, yet so little learned.
Once a coolie, always a coolie.
You say you are doing this for them.
But you did not heed their warning.
Silly, they could not read,
what’s your excuse?
A print too small.
You can stay here you know, and feed off the knowledge of others as I do.
Drain them, deplete them, leave them worse off than before.
Call this research.
We will reward you, praise you, hell we’ll even give you that piece of paper.
Go on then…this is what you came for.
Cannibalise yourself in the pursuit of knowledge.
Gnaw on the bones of your ancestors.
Drink their blood spilled in the (sugarcane) field.
So that you may arise, anew…in my own image.
And…whilst we drown you in a black gown.
Think not of your ancestors draped in the kala pani.
Think not of their sweat fertilizing the soil.
Think not of their tears watering the sugarcane.
Think not of their backs broken to sweeten my tea.
Think instead that you are one of us now…and feast.
 Coolie is an unskilled labourer employed cheaply, especially one brought from Asia.
 Kala pani means black waters, referring mainly to the Indian Ocean. By crossing this ocean many Indians feared they would loss their caste, social standing and cultural identity.
This poem forms part of a series on Epistemic Diversity. You can read the other articles here and here and here
About the author:
Zuleika Bibi Sheik is a PhD researcher at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University Rotterdam.