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Zabeen Artist Name
00:00 / 05:57

"What does it mean, or what has it meant, to live on this Indigenous territory?" 


It's a really interesting question. And I think it would be natural for me to kind of talk about the different complexities. But I think my first gut reaction to that is how I ended up here - I think is such a big part of the story. Because even though I was born here, my parents weren't, and so much of my understanding of the land here, and the people here, is channeled through my experience as East African of Indian descent, and what that journey means. For example, in India when the Partition happened in 1947, and the violence that led up to it, and the violence as a result of colonization after it, that's a big part of my story and my family's story and the reason why they left India to go to East Africa to begin with, because of that violence. Then when they got to East Africa, or not my parents, but my great, great grandparents, my family's been in East Africa since the 1800s. My father's from Uganda, and my mother's from Tanzania, and the political history there, growing up hearing my parent’s stories, were all about corruption and the fascist dictator in Uganda and the violence that they endured, and police brutality. And coming here, I guess, for my parents was a refuge for them.  They were kicked out of East Africa, and were kicked out in the 70s, and came here in the 70s. And they technically left as refugees and came here as landed immigrants. And so for them, I think this seemed like, what we call Canada was a place of safety for them.


But growing up for me, here, I'm realizing that actually the same impacts of colonization, that my ancestry experienced in India, in a different way, happened here also. As I learned more about Indigenous genocide on this land, and through stories from my friends like yourself, it kind of re-centered the idea that this type of violence - there's a universality to it. When I think of indigenous people in India, or when I think of Indigenous people in Africa and some of the struggles that they're still going [through], my understanding of decolonization from the land here, really has become a lens to understand this history that's in my family. And to reframe, and say anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity is universal. It's changed my responsibility here, because I think the default would be, 'oh, yeah, we're free here' and, 'Wow, it's so much better than where we were before'. But then to realize that that's just complacency and the violence that endures here, whether that be because of patriarchy, whether that be because of racism, whether that be because of capitalism, neoliberalism, whatever you want to call it.


And then I think at the same time, being on this particular territory here, connecting to the land, reminding me of how much in Indian culture and Indian spiritual traditions and stuff like that there is really a sense of 'nature is divine'. Seeing that here too, and connecting to that here, and realizing that the Earth here is the same Earth that I would be standing in, if I was in India still, right, and I am Earth, and we are Earth and we're connected that way. And I've learned that living here particularly and the responsibility of what it means to live on this territory. To me, those are not separate things. I understand myself as a spiritual person and I think that spirituality in Islam, as a queer Muslim woman, my Muslim religiosity is like really important to that to understanding of land. Because the material world we live in is not dualistic to the spiritual world. And seeing how the laws of Indigenous folk here operate - spiritual laws and sacred laws - to me, I see that it's such a deep connection. Had I not taken time to learn that or be here I don't think I would understand the significance that would have had for my parents growing up where they did, and the story. I have more context now. And I think more specific questions to unpack - what does it mean to be Indigenous here? What does it mean to be in relation with Indigenous folk in Africa? At the same time, realizing that even though my family is going to new lands for safety, we're also reproducing the settler colonial project by just taking up space in new places. So I think I still have a lot of unpacking to do for myself, but I think it's just really important for me to acknowledge how universal these things are. I think that's my first kind of first response to your question.

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