South Asian diaspora has long plagued the ‘third culture’ of migrant children which is a huge part of the narrative of the Partition.
South Asia’s diaspora is among the world’s largest and most widespread, and it is growing exponentially, with around 4.4 million having settled in the UK.
A foundational story close to the hearts of billions of people worldwide often prompts the question ‘where are you from’, leaving the recipient perplexed.
As part of this discourse of diaspora, a major touring exhibition will tell the story of South Asian migration to the UK, marking the 75th anniversary of the Indian partition and the 50th anniversary of expulsion from Uganda.
As these globally significant events have shaped modern Britain, SAHM celebrates with an exhibition to be held in Leicester posing the question of ‘Where is Home’, which explores the unique journey and experience of South Asian migrants to the UK and looks first-hand at those directly affected by these seismic cultural shifts and explores their origins.
The exhibition explores the experience of South Asian migration to the UK, with a newly commissioned film and personal objects plus a digital timeline.
Local community groups have also been contributors to the project, with first- and second-generation South Asian and British Asian people discussing what ‘home’ means to them, in the context of post-imperial Britain.
Personal objects donated to the project will feature in the exhibition, including a passport, prayer mat and rosary beads, as each item has been chosen to be something instantly recognisable to a South Asian visitor.
Events for the exhibition are taking place in Leicester, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Manchester, and London, from 2 July onwards, with South Asian communities in each host city will feature, plus contributions from artists and curators Alnoor Mitha, Amani Mitha, Jai Chuhan, Jasmir Creed, Saima Rasheed and John Lyons.
Curated by Alnoor Mitha, a Senior Research Fellow at Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University he said:
“Where is home? For many Asian communities, this is a simple question with a complicated answer. I was born in Uganda but have made my home here in the UK; my children were born and have always lived here but still face racism from those who do not see them as British.
“Through this exhibition we examine the idea of home, asking what it really means. We bring in the complex history of Britain and the South Asian diaspora and hear the voices of artists and everyday South Asian people.”
The exhibition is produced by Inspirate, a Leicester-based arts organisation that has produced culturally dynamic art experiences for over 500,000 across the UK.
Jiten Anand, Director of Inspirate, also commented, “Our exhibition marks two major turning points in global history: the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan, and the expulsion of South Asians from Uganda in 1972.
“Both events caused thousands of people to settle in the UK, notably in Leicester, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Manchester and London, the cities in which we present Where is Home? We are seeking to unpick the impact of this migration, both on the people involved, the communities into which they settled, and on their children and grandchildren.”
Welcoming the celebration of South Asian heritage month, Dr Manoj Joshi, says “As a Ugandan refugee, it’s a shining example, of the whole Ugandan diaspora who have come, regardless of their faith or status, they all came here as refugees, and they have all buckled down in a new country and new life and risen to shine brightly”.
He adds “We are contributing in every way, and we are also doing this despite enormous challenges, it has not been an easy journey for all of us, it’s not been handed over on a plate to us to enjoy and relish.
“It’s evidence and a reflection of sacrifices that many of our predecessors have made and suffered lots of insults and injury, and disadvantage, so we should not forget the sacrifices they made, and retain the beauty and history of the thousands and thousands of years of religious, cultural and social heritage”.
In an interview with Asian Sunday, NHS GP and Radio Sangam presenter Dr Henna Anwar said:
“We get asked all the time, where are you from, I just started to question myself, what does that mean, where am I from, does this really feel like home for me?”.
Narratives passed down through the generations, with her father having passed away in 2011, she was able to share the memories he had left of his own childhood, growing up in Pakistan, when his family were all from India, and her grandma experiencing all of it.
“For people like me, whose parents were born in a different country, we’re very much stuck in that narrative of where is my belonging, do we belong here, but then when we go back to these places like when I go back to Pakistan, I don’t feel like I belong there either”.
Referring to the post-partition of migrants as a lost generation, she says “They never felt like they belonged here because they always considered home to be back home in India and Pakistan, but when they visited there, it felt different to what they once knew”.
She adds “From experiences that I’ve had, in one sense, people that have come here through the 60s 70s and 80s, are stuck back in that time and they are desperately trying not to lose their identity, their thoughts, feelings and hopes and they have the old fashion value instilled in them”.