Waq! Waq!

On the island of Waqwaq the 15th-century writer, Ibn al-Wardi tells us, there are “trees that bear women as fruit: shapely, with bodies, eyes, feet,.....they come out of cases like big swords, and when they feel the wind and sun, they shout ‘Waq Waq’ until their hair tears.” Magic realism, clearly, has been around for a long time...

Waqwaq is somewhere in the geographical location of present day Mauritius, where Shawkat Toorawa of the Hassam Toorawa Trust has published the book The Western Indian Ocean: Essays on Islands and Islanders which he has also edited. The book brings together six thought-provoking essays by scholars of Mauritius and other Indian Ocean islands who explore the experiences of islanders past and present, of placement and displacement, of locals and globals.

The volume opens with a Foreword by Megan Vaughan (King's College Cambridge), situating the essays in the broader context of the historical processes in the Indian Ocean. Ned Alpers(University of California, Los Angeles) places the islands of the Western Indian Ocean in the wider African context. Himanshu Prabha Ray (Jawaharlal Nehru University) discusses ancient and medieval seafaring in the Indian Ocean. Shawkat Toorawa (Cornell University) muses on the Indian Ocean location of the medieval Waqwaq islands. Paul van der Velde (International institute for Asian Studies) reflects on Dutch traveller Jacob Haafner's late eighteenth century visit of mariner Joshua Slocum to Rodrigues and Mauritius. Jocelyn Chan Low (University of Mauritius) puts the plight of the Chagos Islanders (Ilois) into the context of Cold war realpolitik and Mauritius independence.

Available from Scholars, at Rs 300. ISBN: 9789994922321, Paperback.