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In her deepest sleep, Madam Lisette Talate returns to Chagos

Saradha Soobrayen

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there's a land that I heard of, once in a lullaby 


In her deepest sleep, Madam Lisette Talate returns to Chagos,

leaving the Mauritian slums, where so many continue to follow


her example, standing in protest against the lies and chaos    

orchestrated by the officials, who claimed there were no


indigenous people on Diego Garcia, Peros Banhos,

none on the sibling islands of Salomon, Egmont, and so


the islands were ‘swept and sanitised’. An albatross

was spared, and the order given:  ‘a few Man Fridays’ must go.


The slave ancestors who fished, loved and prayed across

the centuries, the generations who dried the copra, coco,


extracting oil from the kernel of the nut, even the boss

of the copra plantation struggled to see over the rainbow.


On the main island of Diego Garcia, the US base, Camp Justice

squats. The Chagossians are still chanting, Rann nu Diego


thirty, forty years later, fighting for the right to return. Their loss

is unimaginable, these guardians of the Chagos Archipelago.

Extract from Sounds Like Root Shock: A poetic inquiry into the depopulation of the Chagos Archi-pelago. ‘Over the Rainbow’; music by Harold Arlen and Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg (1939).

Poem dedicated to Aurélie Marie-Lisette Talate (b. 19 March 1941, Diego Garcia, Chagos Archipelago, British Indian Ocean Territory; d. 4 January 2012, Port Louis, Mauritius).