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ca. 1909. Sikhs from India at the Calapooia Lumber Company, Crawfordsville, Linn County, Oregon, 1905-1915. (Crawfordsville is about 30 miles north of Eugene, Oregon). (Photo courtesy of Stephen Williamson www.efn.org/~opal/indiamen.htm)

In California at the turn of the 20th century, a community grew in southern California with an interesting history: Punjabi-Mexican families of the Imperial Valley. This unique community stemmed from the effects of British colonialism, transnational labor immigration & American economic opportunity (and American anti-Asian discrimination laws). Many multi-generational families in the area today can trace their multicultural and multiethnic histories back over a hundred years, and refer to themselves as "Mexican Hindus", "Hindu" or "East Indian" today.

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Among the objects in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, one of the most popular is Tipu's Tiger, an Indian automaton of a tiger mauling a European soldier.

Tipu's Tiger. Image copyrighted by the Victoria & Albert Museum. Click for source.

Tipu's Tiger was created around 1795 for the Tipu Sultan of Mysore. The tiger was the sultan's emblem and the symbolism here is quite blatant: a sign of the sultan's power over European forces.

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A portrait of Malik Ambar signed by Hashem (C 1624-25); photo courtesy V&A Images, Victoria and Albert Museum, London; A painting showing Jehangir shooting arrows into the severed head of Malik Ambar signed by Abul-Hasan (C 1616), © The Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin (www.cbl.ie)

Earlier this year, my attention was drawn to a discussion on ‘India’s Elite Africans' held at the University of London:
“The dispersion of Africans is generally associated with slavery and the slave trade. Most Afro-Asians have been written out of history. Within this scenario, how was it possible for Africans to rule parts of Asia, not just for a few years but for three and a half centuries? Three scholars will address this issue and consider the current status of Elite Africans in India today.”

Due to my interest in Afro-Asian history, I know of relations between India and Eastern African states and kingdoms in history; however, I remained largely ignorant of elite Africans in Indian history. Malik Ambar is perhaps one of the most well-known Elite Africans due in part to his important role in Ahmadnagar history and to standing up to the Mughals.

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Vlisco model. Click for source.

“A picture of a pipe isn't necessarily a pipe, an image of “African fabric” isn't necessarily authentically [and wholly] African”.

These above words are quoted by Yinka Shonibare, a Nigerian-British contemporary artist known for his amazing artwork using African print fabrics in his scrutiny of colonialism and post-colonialism. What is commonly known as “African fabric” goes by a multitude of names: Dutch wax print, Real English Wax, Veritable Java Print, Guaranteed Dutch Java, Veritable Dutch Hollandais. I grew up calling them ankara and although they've always been a huge symbol of my Nigerian and African identity, I had no idea of the complex and culturally diverse history behind the very familiar fabrics until I discovered Yinka Shonibare and his art.

I know I personally felt shocked upon learning that the “African” fabrics I grew up loving and admiring were not really “African” in their origins (or is it?). This put things in perspective, however, as it suddenly made sense that my mother's friends regularly travelled to European countries, including Switzerland and England, to purchase these fabrics and expensive laces to sell them again in Nigeria. In an attempt to join this lucrative business, my mother once dragged me with her to a fabric store while on holiday in London. I was not 13 years old then and I recall being surprised to find such familiar fabrics on sale outside Nigeria. Regardless, I never imagined that the history of this African fabric, henceforth referred to as Dutch wax print, spanned over centuries, across three continents and bridging various power structures.

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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea 1871 title page. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Did Verne create “steampunk” characters in his novels? Though I cannot define Verne as being a steampunk writer, I can say that Verne’s works, while written in a cut and dry cataloguing style, nonetheless emphasizes moral and social qualities as much as it does scientific ones. Given these circumstances, I will consider what are considered important values that a person should have according to the characters in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea 1 and The Mysterious Island. 2 Moreover, by investigating the value systems these characters hold, we can compare how they hold up to the characters in today’s modern steampunk books.

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For Tết (Vietnamese Lunar New Year), I'm spending the day with my family (and getting in gear for TempleCon.) But I wanted to leave a little note for today to those who celebrate Lunar New Year's in any manner.

Most people would recognize that today is Chinese New Year, and that it is the Year of the Metal Rabbit.

For the Vietnamese, however, Feb 2nd was the start of our New Year, the Year of the Metal Cat.

Either one sounds pretty steampunk, though.


teampunk rabbit ring. Click for link.


Andrew Chase's cheetah. Click for link.

After the jump, check out some more info about how Lunar New Year is recognized around the world.

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Kala Persad was created by “Headon Hill” and appeared in The Divinations of Kala Persad (1895), a collection of short stories. “Headon Hill” was the pseudonym of Francis Edward Grainger (1857-1924), an English author of romance, mystery, and detective fiction.



Kala Persad is a wizened old Indian man, “at least sixty...he must have been a grown man as far back as the Mutiny days.” Persad is being pursued by a trio of “bad Mahometan budmásh” (evildoers) when he stumbles across Mark Poignand, an Englishman who has come to India to investigate possible murder attempts against a friend. Poignand, an overly-self-assured young man, does not do much to save Persad. Poignand simply stands there and watches as the murderers, “seeing that they had a Sahib to deal with, vanished without more ado across the adjoining fields.” Persad is so grateful for Poignand's “help” that he solves the mystery of who was trying to kill Poignand's friend. After that, Poignand presumes on Persad's gratitude and returns to England with him.



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For the last post of the year, I'm enjoying a post-holiday recoup and a some good steampunky links. Featuring some oldies but goodies, great vids, the launch of SteamCast in Brazil, and pretty steampunk art after the jump.

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This weekend I'll be at ConnectiCon instigating havoc with my steampunk friends and helping out with several panels. On top of that, "Steam Around the World: Steampunk Beyond Victoriana" is making a comeback! I'm wicked excited to be presenting this panel again. For all attendees, feel free to stop in--

Saturday, July 10th
7:30 - 8:30 PM
Room Location: Check your schedules


And for those of you in the area, I will also be at the Steampunk Bizarre on Sunday for the steampunk meet-up. There should be some nifty artists presenting their work, so I hope to see some of you there.

In the meantime, check out the collection of links for your viewing/reading pleasure.

Read on BeyondVictoriana.com
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The SPWF program newspaper. Photo by knightmare6. Click for source.

A moment of history has come and gone: the first-ever Steampunk World's Fair in Piscataway, New Jersey--the largest steampunk event on the East Coast and very likely the largest one in North America.  According to staff estimates, approximately 3,700 people attended over the course of three days, coming from across the United States, Canada, England, France, and Italy. It was a pleasure to participate in this event, and it was only a shame that there wasn't several clones of me running around so that I could attend every single event (though people may have gotten the impression with the various outfits I wore!)

You probably can hear a hundred and one different experiences from people attending. Like when Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band led 200 people in a parade through the hotel and into the parking lot for an impromptu party on Saturday night. Or the Queen of Steam contest featuring the youngest cross-dresser you'll ever see. Or the crazy jumping spider contraption at the Mad Science Fair, or the Gear Guitar, or the Tesla Coil demonstration and Jake Von Slatt's bus tours.

And for all three days, I've scoping out steampunk's less British side and looking around with fen of color spectacles on. Below are some of the highlights from the side of steam for the more cross-culturally inclined.

Click to read on beyondvictoriana.com
 

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I'm preparing for some big events in May (like co-hosting two panels at the Steampunk World's Fair. Will you be coming? It's bound to be INTELLECTUALLY STIMULATING and IMMENSELY ENTERTAINING.) Thus, the next post will be delayed. But never fear, I have some nifty reads that have been building up in my inbox for you to check out after the cut.



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This post has been been cross-posted to Beyond Victoriana's own website. Please submit all comments there. While gathering materials and suggestions for things to feature on Beyond Victoriana, fellow steampunks offered quite a few delicious tidbits that were interesting reads and looks, but not quite enough for a full post. So here are some Odds & Ends from the aethernets and elsewhere for you to enjoy---

The Reads:

The Effluent Engine, part of A Story for Haiti project
N.J. Jeminsin (author of One Hundred Thousand Kingdoms) wrote this steampunk tale about pirates set in New Orleans, originally for a lesbian steampunk anthology. Enjoy reading it, but better yet donate, donate, donate.

Pimp My Airship
Another entertaining read featuring African steampunk by Maurice Broaddus.

Distant Deeps or Skies
This just in today -- Mexican steampunk story by Silvia Moreno-Garcia that's featured in Expanded Horizons magazine.

Moon Maiden's Mirror
An evocative steamy fairytale in an Asian setting, written by Joyce Chng as part of Semaphore Magazine. Link goes to PDF of the September 2009 issue.

Steampunk: A Mobile Device Concept for Rural India
The technology blog Adaptive Path wrote an interesting article about how engineers use concepts of steampunk technology to design mobile cell phones in India.


The Pics:



Frist mentioned by Jess Nevins (you may know him as the editor for the Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana) on the speculative blog community No Fear of the Future, about Lu Shi'e's Xin Ye Sou Pu Yan (1909), with the following blurb:

"In this tale, Europe is a Chinese colony and it describes the Chinese government’s suppression of an uprising planned by European "restoration" rebels. The Chinese Emperor orders the generalissimo in charge of Europe, Wen Suchen, to suppress the rebellion with flying warships. Generalissimo Wen not only conquers all seventy-two European nations but continues on to the moon and Jupiter as well. The most marvellous part of this tale is that Jupiter is described as being covered completely with gold and abounding with flora and fauna–the perfect destination for migration. Wen is then appointed Governor of Jupiter. From then on, the means of communication and transportation between Earth and Jupiter is, naturally, by flying ship."




Sent in from Professor Von Explaino in Australia:

"Found this picture in a holiday home my wife and I were staying in and thought it would be something you'd like or have a use for.  The tattoos definitely seem Maori."




"Punk Tribe" by 343GuiltySpark

And, as always, any suggestions for this blog are welcome! Drop me a link on the announcement page or send me a email. ^-^

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This post has been been cross-posted to Beyond Victoriana's own website. Please submit all comments there.

Sunday Driver


Carnival Catalyst
over at The Steampunk Empire first brought my attention to Sunday Driver, and later that same day, I read Libby Bulloff's glowing praise for their work (and smelled a snowball effect coming on. And, boy, do I like making snowballs. So I checked out their site and brought In the City of Dreadful Night
from iTunes to hear for myself and was blown away. From the fusion spin on traditional Indian chant in "The Gayatri Mantra" to the smooth-to-edgy variations in "Heroes" to her darkly whimsical jazz croon of "Rats," lead singer Chandrika "Chandy" Nath gives a strong and varied performance on this album, with strong instrumental support from band members Joel (Guitar & Sitar), Kat Arney (Harp, Clarinet(s),Spoons), Matthew Sarkar (Tabla - though recently Rahul Ghosh has taken his place), Melon (Bass), Chemise (Guitar), and Scot Jowett (Drums).




Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with Chandy
with the occasional pop-in answer from Joelabout their music, their band, and their views on steampunk.


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This post has been been cross-posted to Beyond Victoriana's own website. Please submit all comments there.
Image taken from the original illustrated edition of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Image courtesy of the NOAA Photo Library

Swashbuckling sky pirates are an iconic steampunk archetype (or cliche...), but the genre's most famous pirate did not rule the uncharted skies but the seven seas. Captain Nemo, Jules Verne’s most infamous underwater sea captain, has raised much discussion about whether he would serve as steampunk's #1 pirate and antihero. Read More below )

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