South Asian Heritage Month runs from 18 July to 17 August year, which is a month of activity to explore the shared cultures and histories of the UK and South Asia.
The national awareness month promotes British South Asian heritage and history through education, arts, culture, and commemoration, with the goal of helping people to better understand the diversity of present-day Britain.
South Asian Heritage Month came about as a culmination of several grassroots initiatives and projects over the last 15 years, including most recently the various projects and documentaries in 2017 which marked the 70th anniversary of the independence of India, the birth of Pakistan, and the Partition of Punjab and Bengal.
South Asian Heritage Month was officially launched in the House of Commons in July 2019, to better understand the diverse heritage that continues to link the UK and South Asia and is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in the UK, and British Council in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Dr Binita Kane who is the co-founder of South Asian Heritage Month, and the founder of Partition Education Group said “Whilst the campaign was born out of events in 2017, South Asian Heritage Month is about much more than Partition. It’s an opportunity for British South Asians to reclaim our identity and tell our stories”.
To celebrate South Asian Heritage Month, the British Council, Glasgow Life, Manchester Museum, and young people curated a programme of activities involving artists and speakers from the UK and South Asia.
Programme themes were selected by young people and included language, diaspora, and identity, alongside a focus on music, literature, and fashion.
Through a series of discussions, workshops and performances, SAHM connected speakers, artists and young people across the UK and South Asia particularly in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
According to the founders of the campaign that runs the events, South Asian Heritage Month is about “Owning our own narratives, telling our own stories, looking at our history, and celebrating our culture and identity in modern Britain” says co-chair Jasvir Singh OBE.
“South Asian heritage can be found everywhere in British society, from music and food to language and arts, and this is the perfect opportunity to find out exactly how being British today means, to a great extent, understanding our South Asian-ness” he adds.
South Asian Heritage Month is now in its third year and the theme for this year’s celebration is ‘Journeys of Empire’.
From empires such as the Mughal, the Durrani, the Vijayanagar and the British, from indentured labourers forced to travel to the Caribbean and East Asia, and other migrants who travelled by choice to Africa and beyond, to the journeys that families made to the UK with just £3 in their pockets, we have all been affected by the journeys of empire.
The theme also reflects two major anniversaries taking place in 2022, as co-founder of the SAHM campaign, Jasvir Singh OBE tells Asian Sunday:
“This is to mark several anniversaries this year, including 75 years since the events of 1947 when India gained independence, Pakistan came into being, and the subcontinent was divided by the horrors of Partition.
“It also marks the 50th anniversary of the expulsion by Idi Amin of the Uganda Asian community, the majority of whom came to the UK”.
Aiming to highlight 31 events over 31 days, the organisation will have specific Focus Days for each of the 8 countries of South Asia. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Maldives, and Sri Lanka.
Events are being held all over the country including:
Manchester Museum celebrates the commemoration, with an unmissable two-day festival featuring film, music, and workshops on 22-23 July at the Whitworth on Oxford Road, while Manchester Museum is closed for its £15 million ‘hello future’ transformation.
On 22 July there is an opportunity to attend the private screening of the Singh Twins’ film Jallianwala: Repression & Retribution followed by a conversation with the award-winning artists, exploring the massacre of 13 April 1919, when a soldier of the British Raj ordered troops to open fire on a peaceful demonstration of unarmed Indian civilians.
The celebrations will continue on 23 July with a series of Bengali folk music performances and a screening of a short film, ‘Our Songs’.
Across London, a series of events will take place, including the sharing of a treasure trove of footage in ‘Fragments of Partition’ and the screening of Liberté Film, inspired by the true story of WW2 spy Noor Inayat Khan, by British broadcaster and journalist, Sam Naz, who has written and co-produced her first live-action short film Liberté.
The film had the rare honour of being a contender for both the Academy Awards and BAFTA Film Awards this year.
Sam said, “Here was a key figure in the war effort who looked like me, yet I had known nothing about her growing up. I felt I had a duty to put Noor’s courage front and centre”.
The nationally touring exhibition ‘Where is Home?” explores the global story of Indian migration to the UK and will be showcased in Leicester Museum and Art Gallery.
2022 marking India and Pakistan’s 75th anniversary of partition, and the 50th anniversary of Asian Ugandan expulsion, prompted the creators to pose the question “Where is Home?”.
“We have been able to arrange face-to-face events for the first time this year but are creating lots of rich online content too. There should be something for everyone, if each person who engages learns something new during the month, then that’s a good result for me” shared Dr Binita Kane.