Australia's prestigious Griffith University has awarded a fellowship to a Kerala researcher to study the ethno-cultural moorings of the diaspora community from the state, which left the shores of Malabar generations ago. Abbas Panakkal, an educationalist from Kerala's Malappuram district, will work for a year at the Nathan campus of the university in South East Queensland while pursuing the study.
"There are Malabar communities living in the south pacific, some of them forcefully brought there as indentured labourers, and some others who also migrated to the region, in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries," said Panakkal. Malabari people are a big community in Fiji, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Their distinct identity is marked in the dress code followed by the older women, the special recipes prepared for holy celebrations, and traditional folk songs sung at wedding ceremonies.
"Some of them use centuries-old awkward Malayalam, different from the language normally used in Malabar," said Panakkal, who has already completed preliminary work on people in the diaspora from the Malabar coast of Kerala. He will present a paper on the ethno-cultural moorings of the Malabaris in the South Pacific at a special public seminar that Griffith University will organise in connection with G-20 summit that Brisbane, Queensland, is set to host in November this year.
"It is a probe into the tradition, especially language, for identifying how the people, who lost the direct emotional touch (with the land of their origin) kept up their cultural legacy," the researcher said. Panakkal has a PhD on the "Moderate Society of Malabar" from the International Islamic University, Malaysia.