Raza adivasis: a letter by George B. Sánchez-Tello

Culture cannot be lost. Toys are lost. Coins are lost. Culture is killed. Culture is disappeared. Culture is surrendered. The ones killing culture have names and addresses. Sometimes the assassins hide behind concepts like modernity. Sometimes the murderers speak in code, like development. But there is always an architect and a pilot – a person with a name and address – driving a culture to the brink.

This is a simple fact that is not learned from books but visible in every corner of human existence.

However, this, thankfully, is not a story of assassins.

Just as culture is killed, culture is protected, guarded, and nurtured. Like the assassins, the guardians have names and addresses. In this case, they have an Indiegogo campaign.

Over the past two months, I have read dispatches from adivaani, a fledgling press in Kolkata by indigenous peoples for indigenous peoples. For this Chicano, the story is familiar: the people’s history written by the “other,” the suspicious outsider with the resources to craft narratives that highlight the scandalous and ignore the contributions. Narratives that justify the murder of a culture – murder of the people.

Over time, the people master the tools of the master.

After the manuscript is carefully written, edited, and prepared, the people are confronted with publishers whom politely reject a work based on a notion of “the market” that does not consider the people. Despite a mastery of poetry for millennia, press workers doubt the peoples’ ability to read.

After the ink dries and the pages bound, despite centuries of exclusion, the book sells. Maybe not in numbers great enough to warrant inclusion in the Times list of product exchange. Nonetheless, the people buy. The people read. We see and hear ourselves in a place where there were once caricatures and cartoons.

You know this story. Who are your people?

Raza, are you listening?

This is the story of all peoples fighting to carve out a niche for themselves; fighting for a niche in a world that systematically marginalized the people, offering little beyond menial tasks, hard labor, and poverty. It is not, as they would say, a fight for a place in a world changing around us. That is a narrative written by the “other” and forced onto the people.

There are other ways. There are choices. The “other” offers its pearls at the cost of cultural suicide. Whispered in the peoples’ ear, it is the cost for the dream.

Sound familiar?

There remain other ways.

This is the story of the people, the ones here before the arrival of the “other,” the ones forced from their home and taught it was never theirs.

Do you recognize this story?

This is the story of the child who cannot speak her mother’s native tongue; the boy denied his birthright of history.

Yet this not the only narrative; there always remain other ways.

A father writes his daughter, explaining his dream of a time machine that will forever protect and preserve the culture handed down to him from the people: “Our passion alone cannot drive this time machine, we need fuel, and we need the support of everyone. I am worried and often wonder how we will make it. Then I look at you and when you play and make me laugh, I feel alive again. You inspire me. It’s for you and adivasi children like you that the adivaani time machine wants to preserve this culture legacy.”

We need the support of everyone.

You inspire me.

— George B. Sánchez-Tello

IMPORTANT NOTE: There are only 6 more days to contribute with our Indiegogo campaign… come on, dig in your pockets and purses.

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About adivaani

Adivasi publishing and archiving outfit for indigenous expression based in Kolkata.

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