1-30 NOVEMBER, 2021


Each month, we sell limited editions by our exhibiting artists to support the #CIRCAECONOMY – a circular model we designed to fund our free public art programme and create life-changing opportunities for the wider creative community. Start your collection today and invest in the future of art and culture.

Our classic time-limited edition. Only available until midnight 31 November 2021.
Hand Signed Giclée print on hahnemühle museum etching 210 x 297mm

In diaspora communities, we often discuss the generations before us in a way that can invalidate them. We sometimes forget what they’ve had to go through: some things we may never have to experience – the things they have seen, heard and done in order to be who they are today. Maybe the stubbornness we sometimes see in them is born from this. Maybe our stubbornness to understand them is what leads to our disconnect.

When finding a place for our own identity, as British Indians, we tend to look at what the world projects onto us – where are we allowed to fit in and which seats are we supposed to fill? The dialogue that starts within our family home is often dismissed for being different, but isn’t ‘being different’ our suffering too? We can’t begin to discover ourselves without looking at the journey of our ancestors.

Many of our grandparents survived partition and moved across seas to replenish themselves. They still speak in their mother tongue because their home was left behind. We need to wonder: how did they find their identities? In a space where they were told to “go back home”, had racial slurs thrown at them, people were killed and beaten – they had to find a home and security within this. These occurrences haven’t changed much, we still experience bigotry and racism – no one person’s experience is more relevant than the others. Let’s just not completely invalidate them.

Many make jokes about the way they are: they like to gossip, they are hoarders, they only care about money or education, they only want you to get married. The reality is that they lived in such uncertainty that many can’t imagine how to survive or succeed without these things. They seem pushy and stubborn because they are unable to comprehend a life where you can be comfortable without those things. Because they came here with nothing and gave us everything.

And if we break it down:

“they like to gossip”: it can be a form of communication to stay connected. Gossip is hurtful and a lot of the time it is at the expense of someone, but are they gossiping because they are bad people? Or do people from our communities get together and talk about each other because that is the connection they need to recharge their sense of self – surround yourselves in other people from your community, talk about them and the community becomes you, right?

“they are hoarders”: many had to pick up their whole homes, travel to a foreign land with just a couple of suitcases. So when they return for trips, or know people that are going back, they ask for materials, jewelry, trinkets: all to create another bond to what was lost.

“they only care about money or education”: a lot of countries that ‘welcomed’ people from South Asia, didn’t do it with open arms, but with the intent to get them to work in factories. In fact, most of Southall, Middlesex landed there just for that. Money and education is important to them, because it’s what they were told to do in order to survive. Many simply don’t want us to work in factories: they want us to be comfortable.

“they only want you to get married”: it’s very similar to the success stories that they know, because they came as families and had security and support through community connections. Many would go to local temples with each other as their only solace, and would find comfort in surrounding themselves with family. They want the same for us.

Our grandparents can be quite a powerful force in family dynamics: they impart culture and sometimes religion down into younger generations. They are the bridge between our new and old home. Without them, our culture could begin to diminish.

Before the pandemic, what feels like a lifetime ago, I went to see Vinay Patel’s An Adventure at Bush Theatre in London. The play showed the journey of a couple, as they got married, left home, immigrated, had children and we saw them at the end of their lives. We witnessed the lives of three generations of immigrants. It was a stark depiction of the reality of their trauma. Sometimes, it showed the ignorance they faced from younger generations. I went to see it with my dad and I could feel him quietly react. His body would tense or relax, his head turn slightly towards me to see if I saw myself in the child…I would turn to him to see if he would see himself in the dad.

We left with gratitude for each other. Gratitude for my grandparents, their parents, my ancestors, everyone who has lived before us. I have just one grandparent left in the world, which has created an intense need to value the insight he has. I need to hear his stories and understand the path he took. I need to appreciate everything he did.

Hetain Patel’s work also does this. The appreciation of a matriarch is one of the highest forms of respect in many South Asian families. Patel achieves this with his work – the posture and stance of the grandmother and the story he tells, clearly indicates admiration. The importance in this piece of art is that it is showcased publicly – so that our communities can see ourselves out there. We can all see our grandparents on that screen.

Many of us have discussed the lack of archived South Asian history, but they are sitting in our houses, silently replaying scenes of trauma in their minds.

They are the history books that don’t exist.

Sharan Dhaliwal, Editor-In-Chief of Burnt Roti Magazine