The social, cultural and emotional consequences of one of the most harrowing events in modern history, the Partition of India in 1947, will form the focus of a major new project by leading Birmingham-based arts and heritage agency, Sampad South Asian Arts.
Supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), “The Partition Trail” will examine the complex legacy of the Partition and its lasting impact on communities in Birmingham and the West Midlands, particularly those of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent.
Sampad’s project will capture personal memories from local people who were directly affected by the sweeping turmoil of the Partition, recording their first-hand experiences as well as uncovering stories that have been passed down through families. The 18 month initiative will also incorporate talks, learning workshops, an exhibition in partnership with Birmingham Museums Trust and a public commemorative event.
On 15 August 1947, millions of people in the Indian subcontinent woke up to find that they had a new identity. They were no longer part of British India, instead they were either ‘Indian’ or ‘Pakistani’.
This was a result of monumental political decisions that were taken, as the British Government scrambled to ease its retreat from India and the Empire, against a backdrop of escalating political and social tensions within the subcontinent.
The Partition triggered the largest mass migration in human history, forcing the traumatic displacement of more than 14 million people as vast numbers of people moved across the border between the two newly formed states. It provoked horrific violence and resulted in the loss of an estimated two million lives.
Over the course of the decades that followed, prompted by a variety of factors, large swathes of people made the move from India and the newly created Pakistan, particularly from the divided state of Punjab, to settle in Birmingham and the West Midlands. Census records build a picture of the indirect influence of the Partition on patterns of migration and settlement in the region, which can still be recognised today.
Many of the themes within the project, such as the concept of changing national identity, invisible partitions in today’s society and the impact of migration on younger generations, remain globally topical today.
Urmala Jassal, Sampad’s Associate Director and project manager for The Partition Trail says:
“The Partition Trail will capture deeply-affecting accounts of one of the most significant moments in modern history. 2017 marks the 70th anniversary of India’s independence and local people who have first-hand memories of Partition are now in their seventies and older, so it’s increasingly vital to preserve their recollections to inform future generations. More widely, we hope that the real-life stories will also help people to develop a better understanding of the diverse, multi-ethnic communities of the West Midlands, while encouraging younger members of those communities to find out more about their cultural heritage”.
Vanessa Harbar, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, adds:
“South Asian migration to the West Midlands has played a significant role in shaping the culture and heritage of the region. We’re delighted that, thanks to National Lottery players, we can support Sampad Arts to explore and record this crucial part of the local community’s heritage, acknowledging its impact on the region and promoting better understanding in the wider community.
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About Sampad Arts | www.sampad.org.uk | @sampad_arts
Sampad’s mission is to connect people and communities with British Asian arts and heritage and to play a pro-active role in the creative economy. We believe in the power of arts and heritage to impact widely on all communities – breaking down barriers, raising important issues, amplifying unheard voices and bringing people from all walks of life together. Now in our 26th year, we continue to play an instrumental role in promoting and encouraging British Asian arts, so that they progress, break new ground and enrich mainstream culture in the UK.
We support, commission and co-produce a huge variety of arts and heritage activities inspired by diverse artforms that originate from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. We receive kind support from Arts Council England and Birmingham City Council and work closely and strategically with mac Birmingham, where we are based.
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.