Sri Lanka Kaffir people

Sri Lanka Kaffir people

The Kaffirs (English, also "cafrinhas" in Portuguese or කාපිරි "kāpiriyō" in Sinhala) are an ethnic group in Sri Lanka who are partially descended from 16th century Portuguese traders and the African slaves who were brought by them.

The Kaffirs spoke a distinctive creole based on Portuguese, the Sri Lanka Kaffir language, now extinct. Their cultural heritage includes the dance styles Kaffringna and Manja.


The name "Kaffir" is an obsolete English term once used to designate African natives in general, especially from the Western and Southern coasts. (In South Africa, it became an intense racial slur, demoralizing Blacks.) "Kaffir" derives in turn from the Arabic "kafir", "infidel", which was used by the Arab slave traders to refer to those natives.

It is not clear whether the Portuguese name "cafrinha" was derived from English "Kaffir" after the English took over Sri Lanka, or came directly from the Arabic "kafir" in the 16th century, when the Portuguese were buying slaves from the Arab traders. During the 1500s, the Portuguese did indeed call the peoples of Southern Africa "Cafres" - "cafrinha" indeed is a diminutive of "Cafre".


Kaffir communities are still found mainly in the North-Western province of Sri Lanka. There was some contact between the Kaffir and the Burghers, communities of partly European ancestry on the East coast of Sri Lanka.


Following the expulsion of the Moors from the Iberian peninsula, the Portuguese started a vigorous programme of sea exploration. By 1444 they had reached the west coast of Africa and became involved in the African slave trade. They imported slaves from Africa to the maritime provinces of Sri Lanka, then called "Ceylon".

The descendants of the freed African slaves are still a distinctive community near Puttalam in the Northwestern province of Sri Lanka. They interacted with the Burgher communities, descendants of Europeans and native Sri Lankans, at Trincomalee and Batticaloa on the East coast of the island.

ee also

*Baila, a musical style developed among the Sri Lanka Kaffirs.
*South Africa Kaffir people
*kaffir (ethnic slur)
*Portuguese-based creole languages

External links

* [ Kaffirs in Sri Lanka - Descendants of enslaved Africans] at Sri Lanka virtual library site.
* [ Sri Lanka Portuguese Creoles] at Sri Lanka virtual library site.
* [ The Beginnings of the European Slave Trade]

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