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Participation Manager Emily Stone provides an update on an exciting collaboration with Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives to commemorate 50 years of Bangladesh Independence.
Recognise Bangla Desh rally poster. Courtesy of Ansar Ahmed Ullah, Swadhinata Trust

As part of the Inspiring People transformation, a range of partnership projects are taking place across the UK in the coming years. Citizen UK is the first to launch, a collaborative project working with Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives; the Ealing Local History Centre Archives; the Museum of Croydon and Wolverhampton Arts & Culture where together we will visualise migration stories from the mid-twentieth century.

The first partnership is with Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archive, working together to commemorate 50 years since the independence of Bangladesh. We are remembering the activism and action of citizens from across Tower Hamlets in 1971 and the legacy of that significant event on the communities that came after.

Free Palestine by Ruhul Abdin

Citizen researchers, from the Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets, will delve into archives and select material that speaks to them and the events of 1971, exploring unique materials relating to the activism, resistance and settlement of the Bangladeshi community, held in the Local History Library & Archives. Material is starting to emerge of family members who announced independence live in 1971 on the BBC World service, who marched from Tower Hamlets to Trafalgar Square to rally for independence and make visible the atrocities happening in what was then East Pakistan, and who have parents and grandparents who moved to Brick Lane and remember the racially motivated murder of Altab Ali (a local park is named in his honour).

Nodi and Children Drawing with me by Ruhul Abdin

We will be working with artist Ruhul Abdin, some of whose work is featured here. He who will focus on 1971 and 50 years of Bangladesh independence, co-creating a visual artwork with local community citizen researchers that will be in situ in the borough for March 2021. Ruhul is co-founder of participatory design and architecture studio Paraa and is based between Dhaka in Bangladesh and Bow in Tower Hamlets. His commitment to co-production, demonstrated in some of his outdoor projects working with disabled young people to produce a playground and homeless women to create a shelter in Dhaka, particularly excited us.

Portraits by Ruhul Abdin

 Hannan and Richard from Rainbow Collective will support Ruhul, capturing and recording the process of discovery and discussion to create an online display and digital legacy that commemorates the Tower Hamlets Bangladesh community. Hannan and Richard impressed us with their passion for storytelling, their understanding of the diverse Bangladeshi community and their approach to co-production - sharing community experiences in a visually dynamic way. They have experience working with the Bangladesh community; producing a documentary focusing on the refugee camps in Bangladesh ‘Voices from the camps’ and are based on Brick Lane, an important street for the Bangladeshi community in Britain.

Drawing 2: Moving through the English landscape on a train, by Ruhul Abdin

We are also supported by a fantastic steering group, who are helping us navigate the complexities of the local Bengali/ Bangladeshi communities and helping us to source research material and possible locations in the borough for something live.

The artist interviews are invigorating. We have such rich conversations about representation and homogenisation of South Asian cultures, the ethics of working with vulnerable publics and why acknowledging 50 years of Bangladesh independence is so vital. We must acknowledge the trauma that was and still is felt along with celebrating those who helped keep the community together.

There is a lot more to come…visit the project page to see how the project is progressing.


With thanks to:

Tamsin Bookey, Halima Khanom, Sanjida Alam (THLHLA), Emily Stone, Liz Smith (NPG), Ruhul Abdin, Hannan Majid and Richard York (Rainbow Collective), Ansar Ahmed Ullah (Swadhinata Trust/QMUL) Julie Begum (Swadhinata Trust), Shabna Begum (QMUL) Fatima Rajina and Hajera Begum (Nijjor Manush), Ruksana Kazi Begum (LBTH) Georgie Wemyss (UEL), Citizen Researchers.



Image credits from top to bottom: 

Recognise Bangla Desh rally poster. Courtesy of Ansar Ahmed Ullah, Swadhinata Trust

Site Drawing: Free Palestine Protests (London) by Ruhul Abdin

Portraits  of Kamalapur, NSH Arts, Bow (2018) by Ruhul Abdin

Drawing 4: Nodi. Drawing 5: Children drawing with me by Ruhul Abdin

Drawing 2: Moving through the English landscape on a train, by Ruhul Abdin


Supported by National Lottery Heritage Fund


Got something to say?

Chaya Tagore

21 March 2021, 11:06

So pleased to hear Flavia Frigeri is going to be reframing women at the gallery (Guardian 18.3.21|) Perhaps she would be interested in a photographic portrait of my maternal Great-Grandmother (Rabindranath Tagore's niece) Family stories passed down say she was amongst the first Brahmin widows (following child marriage) to re-marry following the death of her husband. We believe Tagore and Gandhi had deep discussions about this. She 'should have' performed suttee. She went on to have 5 children, one of them was my maternal Grandmother. We have a wonderful photograph of them all at Shantiniketan!

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