“For a migrant group, the opportunity to maintain links to their country and culture of origin is simply part of the process of living in a host country.” (Exhibition creates sense of identity for Gujarati diaspora in Britain, 2017)
The UEL Archive hosts the Gujarati Yatra collection of oral histories, originally collected as part of the `Gujarati Yatra – Journey of a People’ exhibition held at the Museum of Croydon (Clocktower) from 14 November 2017 through to 14 April 2018. Originally designed as a multi-dimensional museum installation, Gujarati Yatra looked to highlight the cultural heritage and the historical journey of the Indian Gujarati community from the state of Gujarat on the north-west coast of India.
The “exhibition tells the story of the double diaspora of the Gujarati people, many of whom left the westernmost state of India in the 19th century to develop the trade and the industry of ports in the east and south of Africa, before being forced in the 1970s to leave their African homes and communities to find refuge in the UK and other countries.” (Gujarati Yatra – “We came with empty hands; we left with empty hearts”, no date).
The UEL Archives were pleased to work with the exhibition co-curators, Lata Desai and Rolf Killius to help support the long-term preservation and access to the numerous oral histories which were recorded as part of the exhibition process. Co-curator Lata Desai highlighted the importance of Gujarati Yatra to help support the notions of identity and belonging for the project participants. “Their stories give a fascinating insight into the history and diversity of the Gujarati people and their cultural identity.” (Exhibition creates sense of identity for Gujarati diaspora in Britain, 2017)
This collection of oral histories can be a lasting legacy record of the Gujarati Yatra exhibition, helping to document
the Gujarati diaspora community in the UK, the interaction of people and communities in a tangible and intangible culture, the double diaspora of the Guajarati community and adaptation to life in the UK. Timothy Godfrey, then Croydon cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport said: “It’s so important for us to remember and celebrate the heritage of the many people who make up our community and this is a great way of allowing others to learn about the journey made by those who trace their origins back to Gujarat.” (Exhibition creates sense of identity for Gujarati diaspora in Britain, 2017).
`Yatra’ represents the ancient Sanskrit word for journey and this project not only documented the physical journeys of Guajarati’s but also the journey of Gujrat cultural heritage and the stories of how these communities preserved their culture through language, literature, art and religion. It also reveals – “through its stories of everyday racism, the Grunwick strike and the extraordinary success of certain individuals – aspects of migration and settlement that will be familiar to people from different cultural backgrounds.”
If you are interested in the role that oral history can play in the documentation and preservation of the life history narratives of migration, explore our Oral History Society Migration Special Interest Group.
Crossing cultures (2017) Croydonist. Available at: https://www.croydonist.co.uk/gujarati-yatra/ (Accessed: 26 October 2019).
EXHIBITION (no date) Gujarati-Yatra. Available at: https://www.gujaratiyatra.com (Accessed: 26 October 2019).
Exhibition creates sense of identity for Gujarati diaspora in Britain (2017) Eastlondonlines. Available at: https://www.eastlondonlines.co.uk/2017/11/exhibition-creates-sense-identity-gujarati-diaspora-britain/ (Accessed: 26 October 2019).
Gujarati Yatra – “We came with empty hands; we left with empty hearts” (no date). Available at: https://www.migrationmuseum.org/gujarati-yatra-we-came-with-empty-hands-we-left-with-empty-hearts/ (Accessed: 26 October 2019).
‘Gujarati Yatra exhibition documents journey of Gujarati people’ (2017) Sutton Voice, 24 October. Available at: https://www.suttonvoice.co.uk/2017/10/24/gujarati-yatra-exhibition-documents-journey-of-gujarati-people/ (Accessed: 26 October 2019).
Museum of Croydon – ‘Gujarati Yatra: journey of a people’ exhibition (no date). Available at: http://www.museumofcroydon.com/ixbin/indexplus?record=ART9419 (Accessed: 26 October 2019).