Two contributions from me are included in the exhibition: CREATIVE MEMORY.
I was interviewed by the MMPI Project in 2020, during the pandemic, about objects that evoked undivided India and also what I had written that had come about from family trauma and memories of Partition.
The exhibition features a photograph of a pedal harmonium that belonged to my paternal grandmother, and an excerpt from my poem ‘Civil Lines: One man’s Chronicle of Partition’, which is based on the experience of my maternal grandfather.
This harmonium is well-travelled, starting out in Europe, traversing the northern part of the Indian subcontinent for a century, and returning to Europe [well, London] in the 21st century. This is a folding harmonium, or reed-organ, with foot-pedal bellows. It can be closed down into its wooden box for transport.
This instrument was made in Germany for export in the late 19th century. It was shipped to Karachi where it was bought from a music store for my grandmother, Inderjit. She took it with her on marriage and to her husband’s postings to many locations in (then undivided) Punjab. Just before Partition in 1947 it was shipped to India along with her household goods. It was with her in Delhi, and later in Chandigarh. When I was 11, she gifted the harmonium to me. I learnt to play on it.
It was looked after by my mother for many years. In 2005 I brought it to the UK and had it restored to musical health by a specialist restorer. The foot pedals and the keys are all still the original materials. The bellows and stops had to be sourced, re-made and fitted. The beautiful walnut case is original.
One interesting, and little-known, fact is that reed organs like this became co-opted into northern Indian music and the design eventually evolved into the floor or tabletop harmoniums which were more popular with Indian musicians as it fitted better with their group playing style, seated with other musicians.
This is the poem-excerpt used in the exhibition.
The exhibition can be viewed at:
Tuesday 1-15 November 2022 | 2-6 pm
Kobi Nazrul Centre | 30 Hanbury Street, London E1 6QR
Then at Charnwood Arts, Loughborough, in February 2023.
Creative Memory: An MMPI Project Exhibition
Final exhibition of the creative outputs of the Migrant Memory and the Postcolonial Imagination research project.
This exhibition is the creative showcase of the Migrant Memory and the Postcolonial Imagination (MMPI) project. Since 2017, the MMPI project has been working with different community groups in London and Loughborough, using creative activities as a way to evoke memories of Partition, migration, and the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh and stimulate discussions around identity, Britishness, and belonging. These collaborations have resulted in creative outputs including photographs, music, sound and film, which we will showcase in this exhibition. Migrant Memory and the Postcolonial Imagination is a research project conducted at Loughborough University and Loughborough University London, which explores the legacies of the 1947 Partition of British India for South Asian communities in the UK and their memories and post-memories of migration.