STORYTIME: Being a woman at Postgrad – a monologue

Monologues written by Aksa Saghir.

We will be showcasing a series of short monologue plays, performed via Instagram IGTV @osch.youngpeople to explore young South Asian women and belonging in the UK. The monologues are addressing ideas such as: my heritage is in another country; I keep being told to go home, but ‘home’ is an alien country; losing yourself in one culture; tiptoeing the line between two identities and so much more…

The idea is to examine diaspora through poetic art. The written word is used to explore the feelings of young females within the South Asian diaspora – and how diasporic belonging can be complex for young south Asians who call Britain their home. Diaspora has a deeper meaning for the 2nd and 3rd generations, who are working out how they belong locally, nationally and globally.

DISCLAIMER: THIS MONOLOGUE CONTAINS SOME EXPLICIT LANGUAGE

“So I was born and raised in Brum, I don’t wanna hear any Brummie jokes because I’m sure I’ve heard them all. It’s where I got my BA, it will always have a special place in my heart. But I left Brum for my masters, for personal and academic reasons. I wanted to be more independent and Brum didn’t do the course I wanted for my postgrad. I ended up in another city that shall remain nameless because I did not have a positive experience but 2 months in I had a lecture I was eagerly anticipating; feminist methods.

I had found my way into feminism at around 15, slowly discovering it through twitter. My bachelors had brought me even more nuanced feminism, I really suggest everyone discovers Thealogy, it changed my life. Most people have never heard of Thealogy, it’s a theory about envisioning God, whichever God you worship, in feminine terms, to see the female as also being divine, not just the male. Of course this already happens in non- Abrahamic religions but for a Muslim this was a new way of thinking. 

Anyway, this lecture unfortunately wasn’t on Thealogy, it was on feminist methods of reading religion, I was awaiting this lecture with baited breath. I immediately was sceptical when I discovered the lecturer was a middle aged, middle class white American man. But I thought stop stereotyping. Turns out I wasn’t far off with that stereotype because he walked in and said,

‘I am not a card-carrying feminist, I believe it’s gone too far’. 

WHAT? Are you joking? I have to be taught feminism by this bloody American. He clearly had been forced to teach this, as if someone had threatened him, or he had some misguided notion that he was gonna rescue all feminists from their silly beliefs. 

He continued, [accent] ‘I just think feminism is not needed. What more do women want? Complete domination??

He kind of reminded me of Professor Snape from Harry Potter, a complete and utter asshole. I still can’t think of a positive thought about him – wait one positive thought he gave me a first on my essay, but it wasn’t on feminism- other than that, no positive qualities. 

He also spent the lecture picking on me, at first I thought I was crazy but shortly realised as the only visible WOC making her point known, his reaction to my arguments was very different to his reaction to white women and very different to his reactions to white men. 

Following an atrocious lecture, he sends around an email saying he was worried we had misunderstood each other and we should have an open discussion about the lecture. I decided I would take him up on this. I needed to give him a chance. The naïve girl in me wanted to believe I could change his view. I wasn’t alone though, I had Jen. 

I met Jen early on in my MA. We became friends but I believe it was this moment that created a solid bond between us. She held similar views to me, we could discuss equality for hours. Unlike me, she was confident getting into arguments with people about her beliefs. I tend to only fight people on twitter or my imagination. I need to work on that, but 

I guess that’s the beauty of social media. I can rant at people without the worry of being seen as over emotional, and having time to control my anger. Although that may be to do with me being a visible woman of colour, Jen is also a WOC except she’s white passing so it’s easier for her to be taken seriously. In public, I can feel people discounting my opinion as soon as I open my mouth, online people don’t know what I look like, even though I don’t hide it. South Asian Women can very rarely open our mouths without someone proclaiming that we should be grateful because at least we’re not back in our backwards country – even though they know nothing about our home countries, and should probably educate themselves on how the UK is just as sexist. 

Back we go to Jen and I, we went in ready to defend our beliefs, woman power and all! Every step of the way however someone at the university would make a comment that we were arguing about nothing, it wasn’t important, we just wanted to damage a lifelong career. They encouraged us to let it go… but this isn’t, I’m not going to let my beliefs go. Also I’m pretty sure that song was all about a woman taking control of her body and being proud of who she is, I think that got lost on a lot of people. 

However, perhaps they were right. The meeting turned out to be a failure. I thought I could change his mind, but I now question why is it my job to educate people about sexism, especially sexism that women of colour face. 

But that made me realise that I’ve spent years trying to explain and justify my beliefs and my very existence, my right to be here in this country, in institutions?!?!? 

I used to believe it was because people didn’t understand but I’ve come to the realisation that they don’t want to understand. There are people who want to live a life of bigotry and we need to accept that we can’t change that and I need to live with that and somehow move forward in this world.”

Written by Aksa Saghir (Instagram: @anactualbunny ) 

Performed and edited by Ambiya Khatun

Review: Bilkis Moola’s Ebb and Flow of Love

SOUTH ASIA IN SOUTH AFRICA DIASPORA SERIES

by Farzanah Shah

Ebb and Flow of Love is a beautifully written anthology by Bilkis Moola. Following her first successful published anthology, “Wounds and Wings : A Lyrical Salve Through Metaphor” , Bilkis Moola returns with Ebb and Flow of Love as her second successful published anthology.

With her first two poems in this anthology she introduces us to the love affair between ink and paper. Using a simple narrative she talks us through the magic of words and writing. After all what are words other than what we make of them?

She intensifies this persona throughout Essence and Reminiscence where she talks about hope, regret and pain and pleasure. The joys and woes of love. The ups and downs of life. The fleeting moments lost and the memories that last forever.

She brings out the rawest of emotions with her writing and one can almost feel the blinding joy or the masked pain behind the words. In Luminescence and Translucence she focuses on the light after the darkness and the sweetness of a single promise of love.

In Transcendence she finds herself and her greater purpose, showing that one can emerge more exuberant on the other side. That though the rain may pour, it still blossoms the rosebud into a beautiful rose.

Ebb and Flow of Love has captured my heart and my mind with it’s beautiful mazes of love and wisdom. And when the world tries to tear me down, these poems never cease to provide me with the comfort and assurance I need to pick myself up and blossom like the rosebud does, even after a storm.

“The night falls
The dawn is yet to arrive –
A page from a poem she reads
Hope renewed she will survive.”

Farzanah Shah is a 21 year old young person from Nelspruit, Mpumalanga in South Africa. She is of Indian descent, and both her parents and grandparents were born in South Africa, as were many of their family who came before them. She is passionate about reading and writing.

Review: Bilkis Moola’s Wounds and Wings

SOUTH ASIA IN SOUTH AFRICA DIASPORA SERIES

by Faaezah Shah

Beautifully and poignantly composed by Bilkis Moola – Senior Educator, Author, Intellectual Artist and Stalwart Survivor – Wounds and Wings is one of her introductory anthologies and is beautifully balanced into three categories namely: Caterpillar, Chrysalis and Butterfly.

Each category depicts a voyage, amidst a kaleidoscope of emotions; initially grief, ensuing with healing and concluding with triumph. In Caterpillar, she vividly acquaints us with visions of love’s anticipation and thereafter love’s actuality, consequently evoking imagery of romance mixed with anguish.

Progressing to Chrysalis, she has delved within herself to declare a sense of newfound hope and healing, with titles as; Solace and Release. To withstand a raging storm, one must initially endure the wrath of nature. Similarly, to heal a fragmented heart, one must initially endure the wrath of attachment.

In Chrysalis, Bilkis has demonstrated this so eloquently, hence we are introduced to her resilience and battle spirit. Chrysalis concludes with her quest for tranquility yet to come but, alas, let there be a modest taste of triumph.

Her journey from Caterpillar to Chrysalis yields to Butterfly; the concluding chapter to her admirably, impressively written, thought provoking anthology. In Butterfly, Bilkis ceases all sorrow and subjugates the reader to a sense of victory and selfless pride. Her voyage through adversity; commencing from Caterpillar, fruits into one of heartfelt delight; to Butterfly when she emerges triumphantly in finality. And we are left breathless and in awe of her metamorphosis; a Winged Wonder

Wounds and Wings has charmed it’s way into my heart. Pure literary brilliance. Refined reading at it’s best; savour each verse, hang onto every last word and read in between the lines. It is truly awe inspiring. Bilkis has the power to impact lives and change hearts with literary mastery.

Faaezah Shah is a 21 year old young person from Nelspruit, Mpumalanga in South Africa. She is of Indian descent, and both her parents and grandparents were born in South Africa, as were many of their family who came before them. She enjoys exploring literature and believes every writer is an artist.

Unknown History – a monologue

Monologues written by Aksa Saghir.

We will be showcasing a series of short monologue plays, performed via Instagram IGTV @osch.youngpeople to explore young South Asian women and belonging in the UK. The monologues are addressing ideas such as: my heritage is in another country; I keep being told to go home, but ‘home’ is an alien country; losing yourself in one culture; tiptoeing the line between two identities and so much more…

The idea is to examine diaspora through poetic art. The written word is used to explore the feelings of young females within the South Asian diaspora – and how diasporic belonging can be complex for young south Asians who call Britain their home. Diaspora has a deeper meaning for the 2nd and 3rd generations, who are working out how they belong locally, nationally and globally.

DISCLAIMER: THIS MONOLOGUE CONTAINS SOME EXPLICIT LANGUAGE

“When I was in primary school, I remember people discussing their family history. Putting together family trees that went back generations. And I remember my confusion and frustration when I realised I couldn’t do the same with my family. 

I went back to my grandparents but before that, I can’t really say. I don’t know the ancestry of my family. I don’t know who I descended from. 

A lot of it has to do with lack of paperwork. It’s hard to find your past in a state where paperwork was not done the same way, where records were not kept. There’s not a lot of places we can go. We rely on oral history but that oral history gets lost in the diaspora when we’re in a smaller community. I’m sure my family in Pakistan know more, but I don’t know them and I didn’t have easy access to ask my questions as a child. 

I tell a lot of people that’s the reason I don’t know and can’t really start looking but in my heart I know it’s not the complete truth. I’m lying to myself and to the people around me. 

The truth is part of me is afraid to look into where I’ve come from, I’m afraid of what I’ll find. I know there will be trauma there. My ancestors lived through partition, two world wars and the British Empire to start with. All those aspects affect my family now and I’m afraid to find my family’s story because I don’t know if I can deal with that pain. 

So as my school friends talked about their ancestries, and the cool heritage they have. I need to be aware that I am essentially starting a family name, a legacy for my descendants. I am creating something with markers, there is physical proof I was here. I hope that my descendants will look back and see what I did and feel proud of me. Because I didn’t have that opportunity. 

It’s strange to feel like you have no understanding of your own history. Part of it is because our history isn’t taught. 

I had to find my own history. I had to research the Empire and learn the truth of what happened and how it impacted the motherland to this day. I wasn’t taught it at school, not the extent of the brutality of the Empire. It was swept over and my people felt like a sidenote in British history. Even when learning about the immigration of people over to the UK, it was never discussed properly. It was just treated like we never really contributed, we were never affected. It’s utter bullshit and we’re not only minorities who get treated this way. 

Still to this day I have so much to learn. There’s things I’m aware about but I don’t know much. For example, how did the British use Indian forces during WWII? I’m making my way through a book on Muslim soldiers in Dunkirk and constantly questioning why war movies are whitewashed when it’s clear the Empire was as much a part of the war as Britain. 

There’s also a point to be made about British history. The fact that I was raised here does not mean a) I have to accept your history as you tell it as pure fact or b) you can’t change ideas and theories about the past due to increased information. 

I spent years at school being told what a great guy Winston Churchill was. I knew when I sat there listening to my teachers that Winston Churchill thought I was a less than human That’s the truth. How can I claim that part of British history and be proud of it when I was the target of his bigoted views? When my people suffered and continue to suffer because of his actions but the history refuses to acknowledge that. 

The bitter truth is, Empire scars my history. And until the Empire is fully acknowledged I don’t believe we will be able to fully move on. How can we be part of a society that denies us our history? We shouldn’t be here through false ideas, through a false understanding of our past and what brought us here. 

We shouldn’t all be homogenised into one group. We’re all different. We have had different paths to the UK, we have had different experiences here, we have different relationships with our motherlands. The Empire and its legacy has different effects on us. 

We all have the right to tell our stories. To be listened to and to be believed. To feel like we’re an active part of this society that truly acknowledges its past and moves forward with us, not alongside us.”

Written by Aksa Saghir (Instagram: @anactualbunny ) 

Performed and edited by Shafia Fiaz (Instagram: @shafiaa_z)

Review: Amitabh Mitra’s Stranger than a Sun

SOUTH ASIA IN SOUTH AFRICA DIASPORA SERIES

review by Bilkis Moola

Amitabh Mitra’s Stranger than a Sun transcends a peripheral read as it embraces poetry, prose and artistry. His migration from India, the land of his birth, to South Africa reveals a nostalgic contemplation of memoirs located in Gwalior Fort. Gwalior Fort is located in Madhya Pradesh in Central India.

Charcoal. chalk and gouache on paper offer sentient images of monuments that exist since the 10th century. These sketches enter the reader’s psyche for an imaginative evocation of places located in a historical era of mansions and palaces splendidly translated as the ‘haveli’ in Hindi.

A quiet reminiscence of the stranger’s longings stirred by the observations of his adopted land arrest the reader in an emotive capture of hypnotic writing. Enamoured by a romance of tangibly profound compositions, the reader is seduced within the story of a migrant’s passage to a foreign land.

The metaphor of the sun is explored in descriptions lyrically expressed as “dying sun”, “believing in the sun”, “the sun melts down each day” and “the sun crosses many more suns”. The symbol of the sun ignites light and dreams where Amitabh Mitra – as a ‘stranger’ in South Africa – concludes, “Home is the nowhereland within each of us.

Bilkis Moola is an educator and poet who resides in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa. Her ancestral passage to South Africa emerges from the village of Khator, district of Surat, in Gujerat, India. She is from the fifth generation of Indian descendants who are of South African nationality.

Asian Aunties and Ingrained Trauma – a monologue

Monologues written by Aksa Saghir.

We will be showcasing a series of short monologue plays, performed via Instagram IGTV @osch.youngpeople to explore young South Asian women and belonging in the UK. The monologues are addressing ideas such as: my heritage is in another country; I keep being told to go home, but ‘home’ is an alien country; losing yourself in one culture; tiptoeing the line between two identities and so much more…

The idea is to examine diaspora through poetic art. The written word is used to explore the feelings of young females within the South Asian diaspora – and how diasporic belonging can be complex for young south Asians who call Britain their home. Diaspora has a deeper meaning for the 2nd and 3rd generations, who are working out how they belong locally, nationally and globally.

DISCLAIMER: THIS MONOLOGUE CONTAINS SOME EXPLICIT LANGUAGE

“You know what’s horrible I can’t remember the first time I experienced misogyny, I genuinely have gone through my childhood thinking it was a normal part of life – as many women have. I can think of so many times I’ve been confronted with the realisation of a patriarchal society, it’s upsetting that I can’t remember the first because of how commonplace it is. 

For example, a constant pain in my life are the asian aunties of the world, you know what I’m talking about. 

If you’re an auntie, note I don’t care about your opinion. One particular auntie constantly makes statements [accent] ‘oh you need to lighten your skin’, ‘oh you’re too hairy’, ‘oh you need to get married’ [accent] – yuck. I still get these statements as a grown independent woman. The truth is these comments affected me as a child, and even now I’m still affected by them sometimes. Two comments always really impacted me. The first one being about body hair. There’s a hatred towards my body hair that has been ingrained into me from society. It’s crazy because hello removing hair is painful and I’d rather not do it. So I spend months trying to be proud of my moustache and my bushy eyebrows (which always go in and out of fashion) but it always creeps back in and I feel the need to go rushing to the nearest salon immediately. Part of me feels like I’ll never be able to get past that but that’s something I’ve somehow got to deal with. 

The second comment that always impacted me was comments about marriage and being marriage-appropriate. It’s like my only purpose in life is to get married and procreate – like I have no other personality trait. No other desires in life, I know all the women understand. I mean we’ll get married when we’re ready – you know career sorted, earning money, being an independent woman as Destiny’s Child would say. Although will anyone be ready to marry, some people don’t want to, that’s fine as well. It’s a harder argument you have to have with your family but all the more power to you.

Sometimes though my society comes into my mind, the thought that I’m not complete without a husband or a wife. Sometimes I feel like we don’t get the chance to know what would make us feel complete. I ain’t judging even if my aunties would. I’m not sure I’ll ever get it out of my head though, it’s hard to rewire your brain. It’s a constant work in progress. 

So I decided to seize my destiny! You know go out there instead of waiting for something to fall in my lap. So I decided to sign up to some asian dating sites, you know the ones I’m talking about the classic shaadi.com, the more modern muzmatch. There’s a whole bunch so of course I should be able to find one. 

I was swiftly proven wrong, wow it’s a minefield out there, how are my sisters finding love in this culture – now don’t come at me for my experiences. But a lot of men I’ve come across want to control me or don’t respect my autonomy or just want to marry someone who will baby them like their mother does. But that won’t be me – I want an equal partnership, even if it means I’ll spend the rest of my life alone.”

Written by Aksa Saghir (Instagram: @anactualbunny ) 

Performed by Romana Jabeen (Instagram: @lifeofromana)

‘So When Did I Stop Being Working Class?’ – a monologue

Monologues written by Aksa Saghir.

We will be showcasing a series of short monologue plays, performed via Instagram IGTV @osch.youngpeople to explore young South Asian women and belonging in the UK. The monologues are addressing ideas such as: my heritage is in another country; I keep being told to go home, but ‘home’ is an alien country; losing yourself in one culture; tiptoeing the line between two identities and so much more…

The idea is to examine diaspora through poetic art. The written word is used to explore the feelings of young females within the South Asian diaspora – and how diasporic belonging can be complex for young south Asians who call Britain their home. Diaspora has a deeper meaning for the 2nd and 3rd generations, who are working out how they belong locally, nationally and globally.

DISCLAIMER: THIS MONOLOGUE CONTAINS SOME EXPLICIT LANGUAGE

“What is working class? The definition seems less clear now as people seem to believe Working Class is an ideology rather than socio-economic truth. 

And what does this mean for POC? It means we are erased from that definition. 

The new definition that is proclaimed in many articles – working class is now synonymous with Brexit and hating immigrants and wanting to reclaim the UK from being owned by other communities. 

Except they forget a majority of South Asians are now born and bred in the UK. We consider this our home. So telling us to go home doesn’t work because you’re just gonna send me back to the hospital where I was born because where else can I go? 

The truth is being working class in the UK is never truly explored. A lot people demonise working class citizens. I remember being ashamed of my background, I didn’t go to my local school. I went to a school where I didn’t know people. I quickly realised that I wasn’t like everyone else. I didn’t have the money my schoolmates did. I didn’t have the fancy holidays. I didn’t have the designer clothes, I didn’t get a car at 16. I didn’t have access to private tutors. I didn’t have the money to go on the extra school trips skiing. 

I will never forget the slight shame when I had to apply for help from the school because I couldn’t afford a school trip. I was surrounded by people who were largely not working class. I had to learn to fit in with them, to make sure I didn’t stand out. It wasn’t successful a lot of time time but I tried. 

I’ve learnt that my background is unlike most people I surround myself with. From school to university to the workplace. I find myself surrounded by people who would never truly know what it’s like to be Working class. Who talk about the wonderful holidays they go on, while I remain conscious of how I’m spending my money. When I was able to afford to go on holiday, I had to spend weeks convincing myself it wasn’t a waste of money because I was raised to value money and know what it’s worth. 

And yet my voice is erased in debates on working class, my community’s voice is erased. 

My area hardly sees our local MP – his promise for the 2019 election, to open an office in the constituency and he’s been MP since 1997. 1997?!?!?!? ……. Bullshit right but it’s never been raised. It’s never been talked about in my community. It’s just accepted because what real choice do we have? 

No one cares about my community because we’re not considered working class in the debate. We’re erased from it. No one takes our concern clearly, when we call out racism, we’re ignored. 

Some of us have made the leap up in society, a grand leap to make for South Asians. Some of us have stopped being Working Class but maintain that working class background and upbringing. But many of the community haven’t stopped being working class. But were ignored in the debate. 

But when did we stop being working class? It’s not because magically we all started earning more, statistically that’s not true. We’ve been left out of the debate on purpose- perhaps it’s because people stopped considering us working class because they stopped seeing us as citizens. Perhaps it’s the systemic racism that is ingrained in our society rearing it’s head. Perhaps we’re ignored because a majority of the community don’t want to be vocal – but we know that isn’t true. 

But we are citizens and we are part of Working Class history in this country. We will always be part of working class history and we have been for generations. 

For too long we have been erased from the narrative, but no longer. We are part of the Working class, and we will fight for our basic rights alongside our allies.”

Written by Aksa Saghir (Instagram: @anactualbunny ) 

Performed by Roheema Yasmin (Instagram: @ryasmxn)

‘Islamophobia’ – a monologue

Monologues written by Aksa Saghir.

We will be showcasing a series of short monologue plays, performed via Instagram IGTV @osch.youngpeople to explore young South Asian women and belonging in the UK. The monologues are addressing ideas such as: my heritage is in another country; I keep being told to go home, but ‘home’ is an alien country; losing yourself in one culture; tiptoeing the line between two identities and so much more…

The idea is to examine diaspora through poetic art. The written word is used to explore the feelings of young females within the South Asian diaspora – and how diasporic belonging can be complex for young south Asians who call Britain their home. Diaspora has a deeper meaning for the 2nd and 3rd generations, who are working out how they belong locally, nationally and globally.

DISCLAIMER: THIS MONOLOGUE CONTAINS SOME EXPLICIT LANGUAGE

“Islamophobia is a lie they proclaim. The biggest lie of them all they say. There’s no such thing as Islamophobia, it’s just not possible. 

But at the end of the day my lived experience does not lie. You cannot fake an experience and the emotion and trauma it causes. 

I’ve grown up in an Islamophobic society that has led to trauma I will never be able to fully undo. I grew up vividly aware that a large part of society saw me as a threat, saw my community as potential threats that needed to be dealt with. 

In fact to this day I walk down the street and wonder if I’ll get abuse yelled at me. Honestly, it’s a 50/50 chance and that’s in a major city. If someone yells ‘terrorist’ at me, I do my best to ignore it. I don’t want to give them attention. Then I might mention it offhandedly to a friend of mine, and we’ll laugh over the ignorance in that person. But even that hurts. 

The honest truth is I tend to respond with humour but it does affect me and I can’t get them out of my head. I laugh it off, and with friends I rank the stupidest shit people have said to me. But sometimes I don’t know how to express that it makes me upset. and that I can’t let it go. 

Maybe I shouldn’t let them live in my head rent free, maybe I should be able to brush it off. I don’t know how to do that, and I don’t think anyone truly knows how to brush it off, sometimes those memories come back at the most random times and your mood is immediately affected. 

Islamophobia is a lie, they proclaim. The biggest lie of them all, they say. 

Our struggle is not helped by those who run around proclaiming Islamophobia to be a lie. Here’s the truth: to claim Islamophobia as a lie is bigots way of deflecting any guilt and allowing themselves to continue with their bigotry freely. It’s an attempt to shut the victims up and allow bigots to not face any consequence. 

Bigots are not interested in our voice, they’re not interested in our community. They’re interested in controlling us – because we’re not human to them. We’re people that they can control and should have control over. 

That’s why they pick which one of gets a voice, they pick the extremists or they pick people who are desperate to save the community from their savage beliefs. They pick people who also see as people they can control, rather than seeing as individuals with our own beliefs and experience. 

They’re not interested in showing Muslims who are just trying to live in the UK. They’re not interested in our experiences, in our relationships, in our work. 

Islamophobia has become normalised and the fight back is being silenced. We can not allow ourselves to be silenced. 

Do not allow yourselves to be taken into fake debates over whether Islamophobia is real or not, it’s a smokescreen. It’s there to distract us. But we need to see past that, and fight against the bigotry we face in our everyday life. 

Islamophobia is a lie, they proclaim. The biggest lie of them all, they say. 

I fight back by being visible, I fight back by refusing to be silenced. I fight back by not playing into their games. 

We will all fight back differently but I want us all to make sure we do fight back. This is our narrative, we need to be in charge. 

And they need to listen.”


Written by Aksa Saghir (Instagram: @anactualbunny ) 

Performed by Adeeb Razak (Instagram: @adeebthe)

Fashion Photo Gallery

During South Asian Heritage Month UK, this photo gallery aims to showcase our South Asian Fashion Photo Competition hosted by Manchester Museum. The two Best Dressed people will be rewarded £50 each.

Our two Best Dressed Winners are Romana Jabeen @lifeofromana and Sabiha Yasmin @sabiiyasmin

Thank you to everyone for all your submissions to the South Asian Fashion Photo Competition.

Jeniyah Rahman

I am a British Bangladeshi and my parents made sure I visited Bangladesh and stayed in touch with my roots which I still do to this day. The love I have for Bangladesh is unmatched. Every single person there is a grafter, the people there have strength and a work-ethic like no other. They could have nothing yet still have the biggest smiles on their faces and their connection to faith is one of the strongest I’ve witnessed no matter what position they are in. To be Bangladeshi gives me pride. Pride because I know my country fought for their language, culture and independence for it to continue beautifully into the next generations. I hope I will always carry my South Asian heritage with strength and as beautifully as they do. This is how South Asian clothes make me feel; strong, proud and beautiful.


Kanchana Vanhove

As a Sri Lankan female I feel that it’s so important to celebrate my culture and identity and to be a role model to others. I feel that wearing clothes which represent my culture is important – not only for me but for my family in Sri Lanka to see that I am celebrating my culture. I did not feel that I had the role models during my time in school and this held me back from pushing boundaries and accessing opportunities. My South Asian heritage is my identity and I want to celebrate my achievements but also ensure that I can become a role model for others. I want to continue to educate myself so that I can support those who are very keen to become future leaders of the future.


Hawwa Alam

Being South Asian when I was younger was always about the clothes. I loved shopping for Eid outfits. I would go to weddings just so I could stand on my chair and watch the bride walk in. I had a prized collection of bangles I would wear on special occasions. I still have some of my outfits now that have been passed down to my younger sister. It was always so weird to me that sometimes people would make fun of South Asians for their clothes. But like look at them? They’re stunning! I mean yes, they’re definitely itchy because of all the embroidery, but still, you wear them and you automatically feel like a boss.


Praku Sunuwar

Having grown up in a western culture, I’ve found that your true identity can easily be lost and forgotten. Being a South Asian woman living in the UK is challenging but having such beautiful clothes to represent and remind you of your culture is very powerful. It’s more than just clothes, it’s my identity, it’s a depiction of my Nepali heritage and it’s a way to visually express and appreciate my unique culture. Being South Asian is something to always be proud of, the clothes is a reminder of our blood and a part of our legacy that will be carried down.


Sabiha Yasmin

Being South Asian is such an important part of my identity. With two British Bangladeshi parents I’ve been lucky enough to be brought up with my culture. In all honesty, it can be hard juggling being South Asian and being brought up in the West however, being surrounded by incredible, like-minded people makes it easier to express all parts of myself. My garments are colourful, bright and filled with sparkle (a little like my loud personality) and I’m here for that! I love how our clothes make a statement, they’re subtly expressive and make us South Asians feel a different type of pride and confidence. That’s just my take on it. Happy South Asian Heritage Month!


Esha Chaman

What I love about embracing South Asian fashion is that every garment, print detail, style and embroidery tells the story of which region the garment is from. There is something so empowering about dressing up in our traditional clothes, which is another jigsaw that is a part of the story of where we come from. Each thread connects us back to our ancestral lands. I also love seeing people from other cultures dress in their traditional clothes. Wearing a Sari, Sharara suit, Salwar Kameez, Lengha or Anarkali makes me feel like a maharani (queen); and that is exactly what we are.


Nazmin Mohal

Being South-Asian means my identity is influenced by a mix of cultures. In the same way that a saree can be draped in several ways and come in different materials, being South Asian is the equivalent to being multifaceted and multicultural. Wearing a saree is not only reflective of this but also symbolises the diversity of women who wear this traditional clothing. As a Bangladeshi woman, I am proud to share this aspect of my culture with fellow South-Asian women, transcending the borders and boundaries that too often define our histories.


Nazma Noor

My South Asian aesthetic is all about fusion – a garment as traditional as a saree but with a modern geometric digital print. I’ve worn this saree numerous times with different blouses and accessories, it’s a kaleidoscope of greens, blues and purples and I feel awesome when I wear it.


Olishaan Ahmed

Being from a South Asian background, specifically Bangladeshi, I am very passionate about my heritage and how much beauty it possesses. Our traditional fit is very unique and it’s something I really enjoy wearing. The comfort, the design and the overall look of South Asian clothes is amazing. My favourite being the black Kurta. However, I also enjoy wearing the Sherwani as it brings a sense of class and respect towards my style.


Mahmuda Ahad

Tobe South Asian to me means pride. Pride in our culture, our heritage, our food, our spices and our resilience. To be South Asian also means that I adore the celebrations we have, the colours, the vibrancy, the flavour and the pizzazz. I also love our energy in everything that we bring and offer and the togetherness of different cultural celebrations.


I am proud to wear our South Asian clothing because it represents where I’ve come from. It symbolises my proud history and my parents. I also enjoy the fact that South Asian clothing can be designed and worn in hundreds of different ways. So many different colours can be brought together, displayed and brought to life. There is always something for everyone, where they can express their personality individually. South Asian clothing gives you the freedom to style in any way you wish. This is why I’m proud to be South Asian and enjoy wearing our clothes because of the energy it gives out without words having to be spoken.


Israh Samari-Khan

My father is from Azad, Kashmir and my mother is from Nigeria. Growing up, I was always confused about who I was and what side of my family I was more like. As an adult, I realise both cultures together made me who I am. Being South Asian for me gave me a huge family, great food and a whole lot of substance and for that I am so thankful. I’m loud and proud of my mix and wouldn’t ask for it any other way.


Risma Begum 

Having experienced childhood in a western culture, I’ve discovered that your character can be much of a stretch as it can be lost and overlooked. Being a South Asian young lady living in the UK can be very demanding. However, having such delightful garments on display helps me to remember our way of life is astounding. It is something bigger than just a piece of clothing. It is me. It is a delineation of my Bangladeshi legacy and it’s a method to outwardly communicate and value my unique culture. Being South Asian is something to be consistently pleased with, the garments are a drop of our blood and a piece of our heritage that will be passed down throughout centuries.


Mahirah Ahmed

Living in England we lack a connection with our South Asian roots. As a British Bangladeshi I feel closest to my culture when i’m wearing our traditional clothes. Representing our culture and heritage is so important as our ancestors fought for us to be able to speak our mother tongue. There’s so much beauty, colour and richness within our culture from the food we eat to the clothes we wear, the language we speak, the landscapes we see when we visit that we should be proud of. Joy Bangla forever and always.


Roheema Yasmin

Being South Asian encompasses my heritage, culture and identity. I would not be able to be unapologetically South Asian without understanding my ancestors and their history. I would not be able to be unapologetically South Asian without understanding the clothes we wear, to the food we eat and the family we share. I would not be able to be unapologetically South Asian without understanding my dual identity of being British- Bengali. Therefore, in educating myself about my background I have learned to love and admire the South Asian clothes we wear. They are stunning garments which beautifully represent women like me. From the intricate embroidery hand sewn by our South Asian mothers in Bangladesh to the ethereal jewellery handcrafted by our South Asian sisters in India, my South Asian clothes adorn me.


Nandita Dey

Being brought up in the UK as a British South Asian has always been hard due to facing many racist remarks as well as being discriminated against for my religion, race and ethnicity. Growing up, I learnt to embrace myself as a British Bengali-Indian by wearing asian clothing to asian events and weddings but also partaking in dance shows and performances since a young age. This gave me the confidence to never be ashamed of the country I come from, who I am and what my identity is. I hope everyone can embrace their South Asian cultures and be proud!!


Kiran Ali


I love Pakistani culture. When I was younger I wasn’t quite familiar with the fashion in Pakistani culture but as I’ve gotten older I love wearing Asian attire. I love styling my Eid outfits and putting them together. I’m super proud to be South Asian and be a part of such an amazing culture.


Shafia Fiaz

How can you not love these incredibly saturated and vibrant clothes that brings a sense of energy to whoever wears it? Whenever I wear them, all the memories come back to me, from the crowded streets of a Bazaar to the beautiful valleys in Azaad Kashmir. It gives me a sense of belonging, a place I can return to with a handful of nostalgia. Memories of sweet celebrations and childhood days. A part that I treasure and find comfort in. Often I see people around me feeling ashamed to wear their traditional clothes and the stigma deeply saddens me. I believe that we should embrace our culture and use it as a tool that tells us apart from others.


Vishali Shyam

Being a south Asian is a blessing as I’m exposed to various languages, communities, faiths and beliefs.


Even, in the two pictures below you can see me wearing two different costumes from south Asia (one a lehenga, other a Saree)  which define me in different ways. Yet, the power, compassion and confidence remain the same. That’s the power of South Asia. A community that thrives unity and understanding.


Rida Khan

Being South Asian means to me to be conscious and deeply aware of my culture. I recognise and appreciate the beauty and the entirety of being South Asian. Specifically in our current society, there is so much positive change and awareness on so many topics both taboo and acceptable in the South Asian community and I have never been more proud to represent us. The image I’m submitting is of my graduation in 2019 and I always look at it and feel immensely proud to have worn my South Asian clothes on such an important day of my life!


Kinza Ejaz 

I was born and raised in Pakistan as one of 6 girls. I love wearing my traditional clothes as I feel like they are my identity. I’m proud of my heritage and culture. They make me feel more confident and attached to my roots.


Noshin Karim

As a Bengali girl who grew up being the only brown girl in school, it took me years to embrace my culture. Now, I couldn’t be more proud.

We wear the most beautiful outfits, my favourite has to be the Saree – it makes me feel so elegant yet empowered. I wore one for the first time at age 18, and felt like a “woman” for the first time.


Secondly, we’re so lucky to have the most delicious varieties of our home-made food. From all the traditional spicy curries to the street style snacks (my favourite being Pani Puri), restaurants couldn’t even try to come close to anything our mums could make. We also have the most extravagant weddings, where our brides are made to feel like princesses in their embellished sarees, wearing the most intricate mehendi designs matched with luxurious gold jewellery. Being South Asian is beautiful, and I can’t wait to continue celebrating my culture.


Umara Arshad

Coming from a South Asian background specifically Pakistan, it makes me proud to share my comfort level with Asian dresses. To adorn myself with the most exquisite traditional Pakistani dresses. From Shalwar Kameez, Kurtas, Dupattas to Anrakalis and many more. I also love seeing other cultures’ dresses because of the embroidery, style and colours. That’s what makes it more attractive as this is what it is known for and stands for. I hope I will continue the way generations have cared for South Asian clothes and make them proud as I am today.


Sheraz Ali 

As a British Pakistani I feel closest to my culture when I’m wearing traditional clothes. Representing our culture and heritage is incredibly important to not only maintain the South Asian link but, to inspire future generations. It is important to celebrate your culture while you are living in a multicultural society. Whenever I wear traditional clothes it makes my mother happy and I feel blessed and proud to be part of my South Asian culture and heritage.


Tahrin Begum

I was born in Bangladesh and I immigrated at the age of 7. I became a British citizen while trying to fit into the ‘western’ culture but as I grew older, I realised that trying to fit into the western culture made me lose touch of how I was and where I was from. Being born in Bangladesh and having both my parents born and raised in Bangladesh gave me the opportunity to fall in love with the culture, the heritage, clothing, almost every little thing. Going to Bangladesh every two years made me fall in love with the beauty of Bangladesh, that it is known for its serenity and simplicity. The hospitality in a Bangladeshi household is forever unmatched. Being South Asian allowed me to become who I am today. Being proud of my ancestors, how I represent myself, learning the traditional culture and the outfits. I take pride in representing myself as a Bengali


Ixa Nimburg

“Growing up, I feel like I proudly express my South Asian identity when I indulge in our delicious and spicy cuisine, dance with laughter to our unique music and surround myself with my cousins, uncles and aunties whilst we celebrate our glorious festivals. But when I put on my traditional garments, it makes me feel like another type of empowered and confident. It represents my beautiful culture and I feel proud. ❤️”


Yasmin Khan 

Ever since I was little, I’ve always been overly excited when it came to dressing up in South Asian clothing. When it came to Eid, weddings and mehndis, I was always the first to get ready or try my dress on multiple times beforehand. It really was exciting. The simple fact that there was so much variety in what you can wear, from sarees to lenghas, short or long dresses, different materials, really to me, makes South Asian clothing one of the best as there is just so much choice! Every dress is made uniquely and intricately, and the effort put into making one of these is insane. Even simply wearing these clothes makes me proud to be South Asian! 


Romana Jabeen:

To be South Asian; is to be different. It’s to be an ‘us’, it’s about the traditions, the heritage and stories. How we can all connect and bond over our roots, our cultures, and the clothes we wear or the foods we eat. Whether it be what goes down in the aunties group-chats or the topic of ‘log kya kenhgaye’ (translation: what will people say), we should embrace and share our meaning of South Asian’.


Rohini Ajaykumar

To me being South Indian is a source of pride. The lands are beautiful and the culture, food and climate are completely different to most people’s immediate conception of India. Therefore, I love educating myself and others on these variations! The rich and vibrant history is reflected in these beautiful clothes. Wearing this ‘half-saree’ makes me feel connected to my roots, by knowing my ancestors wore similar clothing, which is a rare connection to have when you grow up in a contrasting British culture. It can be hard to balance cultures but clothes are an easy yet significant way to bridge links’.


Malaaika Zulqurnains

S is for sari, the most beautiful yet traditional clothing a South Asian girl could wear. 

O is for the outstanding beauty of the girls that wear their traditional clothes. 

U is for Urdu, the language I speak to my tailor in. 

T is for the topee, that my groom will be wearing on our baraat. 

H is for handing the rest of this spicy South Asian poem to @aminah_ib


Aminah Ibrahim

A is for the anklet, that goes chan chan chan. 

S is for the sharara that is too long and gets caught on my groom’s kusseh (shoes). 

I is for istree-ing the pile of South Asian kapreas high as the Himalayan mountains. 

A is for the 24K angootee (ring) that my groom will gift me on my baraat day. 

N is for how nothing beats our South Asian fashion.


Thank you for your participation  

‘Growing Up Asian’ – a monologue

Monologues written by Aksa Saghir.

We will be showcasing a series of short monologue plays, performed via Instagram IGTV @osch.youngpeople to explore young South Asian women and belonging in the UK. The monologues are addressing ideas such as: my heritage is in another country; I keep being told to go home, but ‘home’ is an alien country; losing yourself in one culture; tiptoeing the line between two identities and so much more…

The idea is to examine diaspora through poetic art. The written word is used to explore the feelings of young females within the South Asian diaspora – and how diasporic belonging can be complex for young south Asians who call Britain their home. Diaspora has a deeper meaning for the 2nd and 3rd generations, who are working out how they belong locally, nationally and globally.

DISCLAIMER: THIS MONOLOGUE CONTAINS SOME EXPLICIT LANGUAGE

“Let’s talk growing up South Asian in England. A topic that doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention other than you know stereotypical jokes about controlling parents and girls needing saving and boys getting involved in drugs- NOT HERE MATE. 

There are aspects of growing up asian that are never addressed, and particular moments to me that still upset me. 

Firstly, I grew up during the golden era of Bollywood movies – I’m talking K3G, I’m talking kal ho naa ho and my ultimate fav Veer Zaara. I loved these movies and devoured them but there was definitely a moment in my childhood when I realised these weren’t cool, that my white friends at school made fun of the fact that I watched them and that I could understand them. 

Even if I wasn’t aware of it as a child, I started to drift away from my culture. I forgot the language, I wasn’t interested in Bollywood, I didn’t want to engage in it because I felt like I need to be more engaged in western art in order to fit in and be like my friends. 

What this means is, I was robbed of a bilingual childhood because of my own insecurities. At this age, I have a desire to get back into it rather than listening to the old movies, I want to watch and find new Bollywood movies. But I’m embarrassed about the fact that I don’t know the language, I don’t know who to turn to without judgement in my attempt to relearn my heritage so I keep quiet. 

Language in general is tough when growing up South Asian. I have vivid memories of not knowing certain words in English – and finding it super awkward at school. For example, Cucumber?!?!? I did not know it was called cucumber until I was at least 6. I’m pretty sure most South Asians will have a similar experience of struggling with the english language.Even to this day, with spices sometimes my non-Asian friends will ask whats in the mix and I won’t really know the english words for certain spices or even really know whats in my mix. I just mix. 

Which brings me to another difference you notice as a child – food! I could go on for hours about the wonders of South Asian food and some hot takes that would probably not make people happy – (whispers) Biryani sucks – BUT we all started to acknowledge at a young age that there was a difference between the food our friends had and the ones we had at home. Curries were not a staple in every household and now being an independent woman I truly have all the respect for people who make a curry every day because phew that’s a lot of work.”


Written by Aksa Saghir (Instagram: @anactualbunny ) 

Performed by Saifur Rehmaan Manzoor-Khan.

Partition1947

A year and a month ago we had our very first #OSCH #kickthedust event where young people were leading on a commemoration event for Partition1947.

Commemorating the history of the Partition of India was a collaborative event organised by Manchester Museum and Whitworth Art Gallery  on Saturday 17 August 2019. Taking place in the Grand Hall at Whitworth Art Gallery, the event was very well attended by families from as far as Yorkshire. One family had brought their aunts who had lived through Partition and were visiting the UK for the summer.

The principal themes discussed throughout the day were:

1 Why do we need South Asian Heritage Month?

2 Why/how does the history of the Partition of India need to be taught in UK schools?

Highlights of the Partition1947 commemoration

  • We ran a call out for young creatives to plan and deliver workshops for young people and wider communities.
  • It was a family event: there were guided tours by curators, presentations by local historians and renowned authors, Dr Binita Kane highlighting the work that has been done to campaign for South Asian Heritage Month and for the Curriculum to teach about Partition, workshops led by young people, object handling of South Asia related collections from Manchester Museum, films and performances; there was also a bazaar for young creatives to sell arts and crafts, refreshments and books; and a ‘partition wall’ for attendees to note thoughts and comments on the themes of the day.
  • Young people led on the workshops – they designed and delivered engaging workshops for children and for the community. There was good attendance of young people with their families.
  • A young local news reporter – Aran Dhillon of Home Away from Homeland – was invited to cover the day’s events, and also recorded a young person’s recitation of Sujata Bhatt’s poem Partition and uploaded it to social media. His excellent video of the event is available on social media.

Ala – one of the young people – beautifully recited Partition by Sujata Bhatt. This was recorded and shared on social media by a local reporter who we had invited to the day.

Partition by Sujata Bhatt.
She was nineteen-years-old then
and when she stood in her garden
she could hear the cries of the people
stranded in the Ahmedabad railway station.
She felt it was endless – their noise –
a new sound added to the city.
Her aunt, her father’s sister,
would go to the station every day
with food and water –
But she felt afraid,
felt she could not go with her aunt –
So she stood in the garden
listening. Even the birds sounded different –
and the shadows cast by the neem trees
brought no consolation.
And each day she wished
she had the courage to go with her aunt –
And each day passed with her
listening to the cries of the people.
Now, when my mother
tells me this at midnight
in her kitchen – she is
seventy-years old and India
is ‘fifty’. ‘But, of course,
India is older than that,’ she says,
‘India was always there.
But how I wish I had
gone with my aunt
to the railway station –
I still feel
guilty about that.’
And then she asks me:
‘How could they
have let a man
who knew nothing
about geography
divide a country?

Still from Home Away From Homeland recording of the event

Young person Ala’s stunning recitation of Sujata Bhatt’s poem was recorded by a local news reporter, Aran Dhillon, and is available here to view on social media.

Ala’s reflection on the poem: “When I first read the poem, I began to understand the difficulties that a particular family went through during the Partition. Then as I practiced it, I developed an emotional attachment with the main character, to join her aunt to help the people in need. When I was reciting it, I wanted the audience to feel what I felt, which was grief and sadness. So I tried to recite it in a way to evoke the audiences’ feelings”.

At the Partition1947 event, a young person – Deshna – applied through an open call out for the paid opportunity to lead a creative workshop that was attended by around 8 to 10 children. Feedback from Deshna: “…this event aimed to increase cultural understanding of various ethnicities, religions, heritage and traditions. And for this reason I designed a workshop to allow those of any background to learn and respect those of other backgrounds through finding out about what they had in common.

First the children added to a Spider diagram describing the similarities within their routines, rituals, traditions, journeys etc. Once they had filled the paper with all they could think of, they were given the opportunity to create collages from magazines, newspapers, calendars and wedding cards that described their joint experiences.

In my opinion facilitating the children to be able to create something they are proud of and each with their individual style and meaning gave me a huge amount of joy and I hope I can do it all over again!”
 

What did we learn about young people, communities and heritage?

  • We need a longer time needed to plan for an annual event on Partition1947 which would mean scope to have a grander event with more young people organising the day.
  • The local South Asian communities really want more events in the heritage sector that are family-oriented, for young people, and that explore South Asian histories.
  • We should hold a weekday event for school students and teachers to lead on Partition1947 workshops/talks and participate in the commemoration.
  • The event was advertised through social media/community groups – but we need more lead time to publicise the event for more young participants and attendees.
  • Young people embrace the chance for paid opportunities to organise workshops for other young people, children and communities – and we should have more of this input from local young people.

‘I’m not your Representation’ – a monologue

Monologues written by Aksa Saghir.

We will be showcasing a series of short monologue plays, performed via Instagram IGTV @osch.youngpeople to explore young South Asian women and belonging in the UK. The monologues are addressing ideas such as: my heritage is in another country; I keep being told to go home, but ‘home’ is an alien country; losing yourself in one culture; tiptoeing the line between two identities and so much more…

The idea is to examine diaspora through poetic art. The written word is used to explore the feelings of young females within the South Asian diaspora – and how diasporic belonging can be complex for young south Asians who call Britain their home. Diaspora has a deeper meaning for the 2nd and 3rd generations, who are working out how they belong locally, nationally and globally.

DISCLAIMER: THIS MONOLOGUE CONTAINS SOME EXPLICIT LANGUAGE

“Hey, you out there. I’m talking to the big wide world out there. A lot has been said on representation recently and I just need to say I’m not here to represent all Muslims. The very idea a single Muslim represents all of us is a lie perpetuated by the media, a media that can’t see difference and nuance when your skin is not white. Before you all start coming at me about conspiracy theories, that’s not a theory it’s a fact – have you been following the news lately?!?!

But when I’m talking about my experience, I’m talking about me, just me. My way might be true for some Muslims but don’t come out of here thinking you’ve discovered something new about all of us. I’m also not sorry that my story doesn’t have the typical Muslim features we see on TV, there’s no extremism, no men forcing hijabs onto my head. We all saw Bodyguard, I know what you’re thinking. Yeah, I bet some of you loved that show. Some people can somehow manage to enjoy a show without being affected by the blatant stereotypes it perpetuates and the damages it causes. It’s harder to enjoy a show when you’re the one being stereotyped (and for Muslims, that’s a lot of shows!) 

For a lot of us, experiences like that are also the first time our voice is being heard so don’t expect nuanced views and me trying to understand everyone. I’ve been stereotyped enough, I think it gives me the right to stereotype certain people in my life. So if you’ve been racist to me, I ain’t gonna try and understand where you’re coming from, I’m just going to call you a racist. I don’t have a lot of time here. 

Maybe we need to talk about representation in general. Because what is South Asian representation? It’s a large group of people with a lot of different belief systems, and that is only amplified in the diaspora when we’re all trying to connect with our fellow South Asians in a form of solidarity. The real reality is some South Asians would step on me to get them where they want to be. Representation and solidarity can only really happen when all parties respect each other and don’t spend the whole time trying to convince others that their mindset is wrong. 

It’s bizarre that we have to constantly preface our statements with this is my opinion, don’t stereotype everyone!!! But it’s also something I’ve done since I was a child – when my white friends would claim that they didn’t expect certain thoughts from people like me – or that clearly they had the wrong idea about people like me because i happened to be rude to them. 

Do you know what it’s like to know that in certain places in the UK, I will be one of the few South Asian people that they see so if I’m not super polite, they might think we’re all as*holes?!?!? It’s how I felt down south, and maybe it’s just me being super aware of my surroundings but how can you not be when you’re surrounded by people who don’t look like you and who have no understanding about you and your heritage.”


Written by Aksa Saghir (Instagram: @anactualbunny ) 

Performed by Akila Chowdhury (Instagram: @akvla)