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Dear Readers,

Welcome back to the Black & Asian Heritage Mix.

A lot seems to be happening in the British heritage sector. New museums dedicated to slavery are expected to be created in Scotland. Petitions for reparations for colonial atrocities and various requests to return looted colonial artefacts are made. So far there is not much progress according to the news articles below. Campaigns by activists have been marginalised by powerful stakeholders.

There are however conversations about inclusive cataloguing, mirroring reinterpretation of collections in the USA. The lack of representation of staff from ethnically diverse communities in the heritage sector is a constant, including in the natural heritage sector where only 3.1% of the environment sector’s workforce are from a minority ethnic background.

Original and innovative work by many campaigners should however not to be undermined. School children and parents can now learn about the Tudors and the life of John Blanke, a Black court trumpeter. Flower shows are no longer the preserve of white English middle and upper classes. There is also “guerrilla gardening”. And the South Asian Heritage month will be held again this year, despite concerns about biases by different community groups.

Happy Reading!

Thushari Perera

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Empty table with 72 seats laid out for Jubilee street party nobody will attend, The Metro, 30 May 2022

“Grenfell campaigners have held an emotional Jubilee street party attended by nobody. Poignant images show a table set with 72 empty seats, for each of the victims in the 2017 fire. Special plates were also laid out alongside name cards at the event in west London today, overlooked by the remains of the tower. They read: ’72 dead. And still no arrests? How come?’ Justice 4 Grenfell put on the gathering as Brits prepare to attend street parties in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this week.”

Kenya petitions royal family for reparations over colonial atrocities as government declines meeting, The Independent, 5 May 2022

“More than 100,000 citizens of Kenya have petitioned the British royal family for an apology and reparations following “brutal” atrocities committed during the colonial period. The Kipsigis and Talai peoples were forced off their land in Kericho county by the British army between 1895 and 1963 to clear the path for white settlers to establish profitable tea plantations… However, the government has refused to engage with them, they say. The Foreign Office denied their request for a meeting this week, giving no details of further opportunities to resolve the matter.“

South Asian Heritage Month 2022 (Celebrate Commemorate Educate), 18 July-17 August 2022

“South Asian Heritage Month is now in its third year, and our theme for 2022 is Journeys of Empire. From empires such as the Mughal, the Duranni, 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: 75th anniversary of the independence of India, Partition, and the creation of East and West Pakistan; 50th anniversary of the expulsion of Ugandan Asians by Idi Amin.”

Coalition of groups highlights concerns about South Asian Heritage Month, The Canary, 11 May 2022

“The Rights Collective noted that the core team of organisers behind South Asian Heritage Month: are of west and north Indian heritage; are from higher socio-economic / class backgrounds; benefit from caste privilege; tend to be located in or around London; are considered able-bodied, neuronormative and heteronormative; and/or are light-skinned and play into their proximity to whiteness. It also explained that this led to a bias towards Indian and Pakistani content throughout the month.”


Football Fanzine

Research to tackle the role of fanzines in football racism, The Northern Echo, 26 May 2022

“The role of football fanzines in challenging racism among fan communities is the focus of a new collaborative PhD studentship led by Teesside University and the British Library…The research will examine independent and club-based fanzines and websites from the British Library’s collections over the past five decades to capture how print and online fanzines and websites have both reproduced and challenged dominant racial discourses within British football from the 1970s to the present.”


John Blanke

Key figure in musical history to be celebrated at Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool Echo, 28 April 2022

“The Walker Art Gallery is set to share the story of one of the first people of African descent in British history to have both a visual and written record. The life of John Blanke, court trumpeter to Henry VII and Henry VIII, will be explored as part of the Gallery’s major upcoming exhibition, The Tudors: Passion, Power and Politics. The exhibition will be running from May 21 to August 29, 2022…The exhibition at the Walker will also present 24 artworks produced by artists as part of The John Blanke Project, founded and directed by Michael I Ohajuru. This contemporary art and archive project responds to the life and legacy of John Blanke, celebrating his presence at the Tudor court.”

‘Father And Soldier’: Cannes Review, ScreenDaily, 18 May 2022

“A memorial to the Senegalese men forced to fight for the French during the First World War, Mathieu Vadepied’s second feature is an earnest story of a father who joins the military in order to serve alongside his son — only to discover that his plan to protect the boy may prove more complicated than he realised.”

President Macron appoints Rima Abdul Malak as France’s new minister of culture, The Art Newspaper, 23 May 2022

“Culture pass, restitution issues and metaverse will be on her agenda…Will Rima Abdul Malak find success in a position that has lacked memorable leadership since Jack Lang, who left 1993?” a report in Le Monde says…”Another pressing priority in her in-tray will be the government’s policy on restitution which has stalled in recent months…”

 The beginning of a conversation’: the Met examines a complex history of emancipation art, The Guardian, 7 June 2022

“Wendy S Walters, a professor of non-fiction at Columbia and Nelson’s co-curator, explores the work as a record of subjection, even fetishization…Viewers will leave either outraged by such politicization of art or equipped with a more nuanced understanding of the touchy era following abolition, a time when European heads of state made grand gestures toward equality while they plotted the Scramble for Africa.”


Congo Art

Belgium’s King Philippe ‘regrets’ colonial-era abuses in DRC, RFI, 9 June 2022

“Regrets, but no apology…Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, who had been anticipating the visit, welcomed the King’s comments as “another notable step forward”, as the two countries seek to heal historical wounds…Earlier Wednesday, Philippe visited the DRC’s national museum in Kinshasa, where he handed over a mask held for decades by Belgium’s Royal Museum for Central Africa…Belgium is also preparing to return a tooth suspected to be the only remains of the DRC’s first prime minister Patrice Lumumba, to his family this month…The Belgian government took partial responsibility in 2002 for the death of Lumumba, who was assassinated by Belgian-backed Congolese separatists in 1961.”

 Retracing Belgium’s dark past in the Congo, and attempts to forge deeper ties, The Conversation, 12 June 2022

“It is estimated that about half of the then 20 million inhabitants of the Congo lost their lives … In 2020, the AfricanMuseum changed its guidelines in dealing with objects from colonial contexts. The goal was to make negotiations on restitution possible…Following this general paradigm shift, in October 2020, the Free University of Brussels agreed to return human remains from Congo to the University of Lubumbashi. And in March 2022, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced the return of 84,000 Congolese artefacts…In October 2021, the Belgian parliament set up a commission to deal with colonial injustice…When it comes to the restitution of objects from colonial contexts, the Belgian government has allocated 2 million euros (about US$2.1 million) to research the provenance of the objects. For many Congolese in the diaspora in Belgium and in the Congo, this doesn’t go far enough.”


Cambodia Buddha

Cambodia Asks U.K. Cultural Institutions to Return Looted Statues, Smithsonian Magazine, 18 May 2022

BBC News’ Celia Hatton reports that Cambodian culture minister Phoeurng Sackona recently asked Britain to investigate the provenance of Cambodian artifacts in the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum in London…Though there aren’t any current plans to litigate, the attorney says the removal of these statues from Cambodia could be considered a war crime under the Hague Convention…More evidence came to light when the Pandora Papers—a cache of 11.9 million documents detailing the dubious business practices of the world’s wealthiest…”

 Faces in a London crowd: museum’s appeal to identify Windrush arrivals, The Observer, 12 June 2022

“The National Railway Museum in York, which has acquired the 37 prints, is keen to find out what the people photographed arriving that day did next and what their experience of settling in Britain was like. The photos capture the chaos at the station on a cold, drizzly day in the capital as crowds of West Indians arrived on trains they had boarded at Southampton docks…The full collection can be viewed at howardgrey.com/windrush. The museum is also keen to hear from any Black railway workers – particularly women who worked in station catering – who arrived in Britain between 1948 and 1962.”

Empire Slavery Scotlands Museums

Scotland urged to create new national museum confronting its slave trade history, The Scotsman, 13 June 2022

“Ministers are being urged to set aside £5 million over the next four years and also commit long-term funding to kick-start the museum, which would be run independently of existing arts organisations…More than 5,000 individuals took part in a nationwide consultation led by a Government-backed expert panel… The Empire, Slavery and Scotland’s Museums Steering Group report states: “The Scottish Government should commit to the establishment and long-term funding of an independent organisation, run by people with relevant lived experience of racism and colonial legacies, and professional expertise.”

Slave’s legal battle in Scotland to inspire work of art for new national museum in Perth, The Scotsman, 24 May 2022

“An African-born slave who won a landmark legal case after being brought to Scotland from the Caribbean by a wealthy plantation owner is to be honoured in a new national museum.”

 How can museums ensure that cataloguing is inclusive and flexible? – Museums Association, 10 June 2022

“The Collections Trust is seeking feedback on the latest draft of the “cataloguing” and “use of collections” procedures in Spectrum, the UK collection management standard.  The consultation is the second round of the trust’s Rethinking Cataloguing project, which launched in February this year. The project aims to challenge the “gatekeeper” mindset in cataloguing, which is recognised as a barrier to opening up collections and information.”


Heritage Fund Racial Equity in Nature

Racial equity in nature toolkit, Heritage Fund, June 2022

“The Heritage Fund’s guide to recruiting and nurturing diverse early career talent. We have created this toolkit to help natural heritage organisations develop an inclusive and equitable approach to the recruitment of people at the beginning of their careers. There is a particular focus on young people aged 18-25 from ethnically diverse communities. “

Flower shows are not exclusive preserve of the English upper and middle classes, British Asians must also throng them: Award Winning Garden Designer Manoj Malde, Eastern Eye, 25 May 2022

“The British Asian landscape designer Manoj Malde has spoken of “creating connections” as part of his new role as an ambassador for the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) with a remit for “inclusivity” that was announced at the Chelsea Flower Show on Monday (23).”

Chelsea Flower Show 2022: Footballer who turned to gardening after Grenfell uses Mangrove Nine as inspiration, The Independent, 1 May 2022

“Semi-professional footballer and TV presenter Tayshan Hayden-Smith wants to work to make Chelsea Flower Show more inclusive for the community.”

Related Links:

Hands Off Mangrove, Grow2Know, 10 March 2022

“Inspired by the events of Notting Hill’s Mangrove Nine in the 1970s and the global deforestation of mangroves, a keystone species that harbour entire estuarine communities, Hands Off Mangrove by Grow2Know aims to drive awareness of the severe impacts that racial and environmental injustices are having on our planet, at the Chelsea Flower Show.”

Guerrilla gardening took me back to my roots – and to the Chelsea flower show, The Guardian, 25 May 2022

“The Grenfell Garden of Peace, as it came to be known, had such positive and powerful effects on the people who visited that we went on to reclaim other spaces. Guerrilla gardening showed me the power of people, the essence and importance of community and the healing and unifying potential of nature.”


Bangladeshi London

Brick Lane 1978: The Turning Point, Four Corners, 10 June – 10 September

“This exhibition reveals the dramatic events which were sparked by the racist murder of Altab Ali, a 24-year-old Bengali leather garments worker, and pays tribute to the activists who mobilised around the rallying cry of justice that followed. Local East End photographer Paul Trevor documented how members of the local Bengali community endured racial abuse as a constant factor of everyday life, and the moment at which they mobilised against racist violence and institutional police racism.  The exhibition brings together 75 of Trevor’s photographs for the first time, alongside oral history recordings by original activists.”

Bradford Literature Festival, 24 June – 3 July 2022

“Join us this summer to explore words and discover worlds at the largest literature festival in the North of England. We are delighted to be back in 2022 in live event mode with a full and exciting programme after two years of hybrid and online digital events.”

Click here to view a digital copy of the Bradford Literature Festival 2022 Programme Brochure 

Francis Galton, Eugenics and Why We Need New Science Stories, Online,  27 Jul 2022

“Francis Galton is the most influential Victorian scientist most people have never heard of. If you have heard of him, you may know that in 1883 Galton coined the word ‘eugenics’ to describe his vision for a society governed by scientific knowledge. In this talk, Subhadra Das, former curator of the Galton Collection at UCL, will describe the colonial and racist ideas that framed Galton’s work, and explain why, for her, the absence of Galton’s story is a story in itself.”

Unhealed wounds of colonialism : Berlin Biennale’s 12th edition showcases artists from the East, EuroNews Culture, 10 June 2022

“This year’s edition is called ‘Still Present!’ and there is a clear focus on artists from the parts of the world that don’t belong to the so-called West…One of the artists from this year’s show is Deneth Piumakshi Veda Arachige – who is originally from Sri Lanka but now lives in France. With photography, video, sculpture, and installation, the artist narrates the story of her ancestors, the Indigenous Adivasi (formerly known as Vedda) people of Sri Lanka…The Berlin Biennale for contemporary Art opens to the public on June 11 and runs through September 18 2022.

Image Credits: Buddha via Pexels, Justice4Grenfell, Football Fanzines via ebay, John Blanke via Wikicommons,  Master of the Sundi area, Democratic Republic of the Congo via Wikicommons, Cambodia Naga- Buddha via Wikicommons, Heritage Fund Racial Equity in Nature Toolkit, Bangladeshis in Whitechapel via Wikicommons

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