South Asian Heritage Month

Logo for South Asian Heritage Month

Today is the final day of South Asian Heritage Month (18 July to 17 August 2021). As the month closes South Asian Heritage Month on twitter has been focusing on Afghanistan. This has included information on how we might support people in Afghanistan, including @RukhshanaMedia, a journalism group led by Afghan women and started by 28 year-old Zahra Joya.

Amongst so many UK-based programmes and projects focused on culture, health and wellbeing, here are just a few we're featuring in this month's bulletin:

Building on a thirty-year history of work in the West Midlands, Sampad, based at MAC Birmingham, has just received funding via the Baring Foundation "to help embed a culture of arts improving mental health in Washwood Heath, Birmingham, through professional artists representing the diverse community." The funding was one of 24 grants awarded under the Foundation's Creatively Minded and Ethnically Diverse fund. (You can read Art Fund Chair Vicki Amedume's discussion of the fund and grantees here.)

Akademi, founded in 1979, have a decades-long track-record of work with health and wellbeing, including collaborations with Arts4Dementia and Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust. In December 2019, The National Lottery Heritage Fund supported Akademi to archive 40 years of its South Asian dance heritage in the UK at the Victoria and Albert Museum. You can read about Akademi's work with health and wellbeing in its digital archive here.

Akademi are also featured alongside a range of organisations in this brilliant film from the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science (IADMS):

In Birmingham, the NOW Gallery's Young Artist Commission 2021 is My Head Is A Jungle by Birmingham-born illustrator Manjit Thapp:

As guests meander through this created jungle with an abundance of greenery, weaving amongst the artist’s physical scrapbook of collected emotions, they are invited to explore experiences that gather within everyone’s own minds. From overgrowing thoughts, tangled feelings, suppressed fears and wild growth, Thapp’s work creates a fragmented narrative, acting like pages in a diary and documenting the contemporary female experience.

In this blog post for Mind in Bradford, Programme Manager Masira Hans explores mental health "in relation to generational trauma, tokenism, belonging, difference, commonality": 

...mental ill health is generally frowned upon in all communities, stigma is not a phenomenon that only exists if you have brown skin. What is true however, is that there are additional barriers that exist if one belongs to a South Asian community. The barriers include but are not limited to language, lack of understanding of cultural norms and expectations, not knowing how to ‘work the system’ or simply a resistance from others to learn the customs of the South Asian community.

Neelam’s Story, below, is based on a true story of a young girl encountering difficulties with her mental health and given crucial help to access support by the British Asian Trust. Its Executive Producer Rekesh Chauhan says "Arts can enable difficult conversations and this musical film aims to raise awareness of mental health":

Manchester Museum - whose Director Esmé Ward is also Chair of the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance - held a series of events this month and announced its plans for "hello future", a huge capital project dedicated to building understanding between cultures, and including the South Asia Gallery, "the first permanent exhibition dedicated to exploring the stories, experiences, cultures and contributions of South Asian communities in the UK".

Lastly, we're looking forward to hearing more about So Many Beauties Collective's South Asian Heritage Month intercultural music showcase in their blog for us next month.