Evelyn ‘Iggy’ Rose
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Whenever Evelyn ‘Iggy’ Rose was asked about her origins, she would mysteriously refer to “the Himalayas”, no more. She was muse to Pink Floyd co-founder Syd Barrett, the naked cover girl of his debut album and his lover.
When her mixed-race appearance was exoticised in the London of the ’60s, she gave the name “Eskimo” to a photographer as a joke and another origin story stuck— Iggy “the Inuit”.
Now, four years after her death, the pieces have finally come together — the charming socialite of swinging London was from the hills of Mizoram, reports Chandrima Banerjee.
Thank fans of Pink Floyd for helping us reunite: Iggy’s kin
Iggy’s Mizo name was Laldawngliani,” Rosangzuala, 48, whose great grandmother and Iggy’s grandmother were sisters, told TOI. “I had been looking for Iggy and our England family since 2008. I joined Facebook to look for them. But nothing turned up… Days ago, I saw a post in a local Mizoram Facebook group which mentioned a blog which said Iggy ‘the Inuit’ might be a Mizo … If not for Iggy’s relationship with Syd Barrett, we might not have found them. I thank Pink Floyd fans for helping us reunite the family.”
What Rosangzuala and his family knew, and many did not, was this — Iggy’s greatgrandfather Thangphunga was a chieftain of three Mizoram villages now consolidated as Chaltlang, and her mother Chawngpuii (her English name was Angela) had married British Army officer Harry Charlton Joyce who was serving in India and had then left for Yemen, followed by England. “Her father was posted with the Royal Engineers,” said Rosangzuala. “He was a Major when he married Chawngpuii.”
In 1966, what was then the Mizo district and would later become the state of Mizoram was caught in a struggle for autonomy. Letters coming into the state would be examined by the government and, many believe, destroyed.
“The last time we received a letter from Iggy’s father, he was a Brigadier. After that, all communication stopped.”
Around this time, Iggy was attending art school, meeting Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Brian Jones and Keith Moon, and attending counterculture concerts like the ‘14 Hour Technicolour Dream’, headlined by Pink Floyd, says the first extensive profile of the socialite by British music journalist Mark Blake in 2011, before she started living with Syd Barrett. Years passed and though her family in Mizoram knew about her, they could not figure out how to get in touch with their relatives in England.
“Iggy’s younger aunt, Chawngmawii, is 93. She lives in Kolasib (along with two of Iggy’s first cousins). Iggy’s elder aunt used to visit us often but she died years ago. I had promised her I would find them some day,” said Rosangzuala. The last place they knew Iggy’s parents lived was Havant, so they contacted the Borough Council there. However, it did not help. Then, they wrote to the UK’s defence ministry, hoping the military ties might throw up a lead. It didn’t.
The Facebook post Rosangzuala saw now finally established a trail. It was a single line in a 2017 obituary — she died a day before turning 70 — in a blog called ‘The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit’ (which replaced “Inuit” with “Mizo” later) which had resurfaced on Facebook: “Iggy’s mother, so was confirmed to us, was not from Pakistan, but from Mizoram, situated at the northeast of India, sharing borders with Bangladesh and Myanmar.”
Rosangzuala got in touch with the blog post’s author. “He was called Felix. He helped us contact Iggy’s family in England online,” Rosangzuala said. “Iggy’s cousin Thana has connected with her brother, Stephen. He has a Mizo name, too.”