This new display spotlights the lesser-known history of Indian indenture in the British Caribbean. It tells the personal stories of Indo-Caribbean culture in London. It also explores migration to the United Kingdom today.
Following the end of enslaved African labour, British planters in the Caribbean devised a new scheme. Their aim was to source cheap labour for their plantations. They recruited workers from India to work for three to five years. This was in return for transport, a minimal wage and some basic provisions.
The first indenture ships set sail in 1838. Between then and its end in 1917, around 450,000 Indians undertook the long journey to the British Caribbean. This took up to five months.
Conditions on board were poor and the journeys difficult. Migrants forged strong bonds as they crossed the Kala Pani or ‘dark waters'.
The display features letters petitioning the government from planter Sir John Gladstone. It also features contracts, shipping company records and postcards. Papers from the Parliamentary Archives give insights into the realities of life under indenture.
The display draws on photographs, jewellery, film and artwork. These uncover personal stories and family memories from London’s Indo-Caribbean community.