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Collaborative Storytelling: the forced exile of the Chagossian people
Institute of Contemporary Arts
Saturday 27 & Sunday 28 August 2022

Marking the recent release of Natasha Soobramanien and Luke Williams’ acclaimed novel Diego Garcia, the ICA invites the writers and screens two rare films depicting the Chagossian people’s story.

In their recent experimental novel Diego Garcia, Soobramanien and Williams relate the history of the Chagossian people’s struggle to return to their homeland in the Chagos Archipelago. Forced from their Indian Ocean islands by the UK government in 1968-1973 to make way for a US military base, the Chagossian people continue to fight for their right to return. The novel’s protagonists are driven by an encounter with Diego, a Mauritian-Chagossian poet, to learn more about this episode in British colonial history. They learn the facts, but most of all they learn that to educate themselves about this story is to seek out Chagossian people’s testimony: collective first-person accounts of the forced exile and its continuing effects, most significantly as shared by  elders in the court cases they have pursued in search of justice.

In the novel, two films are encountered which draw on the power of testimony to amplify the Chagossian people’s story: Another Paradise (2019) by Olivier Magis, an intimate portrait of Sabrina Jean, UK chair of the Chagos Refugee Group, and her community in Crawley; and Unforgotten Islands (2010) by Michel Daëron, which follows members of the Chagos Refugee Group in Mauritius and Seychelles as they make a historic pilgrimage to their islands, then journey to London to take their case to the High Court.

Diego Garcia is a novel that speaks of the power of collaboration in art: between literature and film, between a marginalised community and artists from outside of that community working together to keep retelling a story that the powerful refuse to listen to, but that everyone needs to hear.

Natasha Soobramanien and Luke Williams will join us at the ICA on Saturday 27 August and a pre-recorded conversation with Michel Daëron and Olivier Magis can be listened to below.


Saturday 27 August, 4pm
Oliver Magis’s documentary feature tells the little-heard story of the Chagossian people’s banishment from their homeland by the UK government.

Sunday 28 August, 4:30pm
Michel Daëron spotlights one of the first return visits made by the Chagossian people to their former home in this rare 2011 documentary.