Black and Asian histories are a vital part of England’s story. Yet in our books, at our historic sites and in our records they're not well represented.
By Anand Chhabra, founder and chair at Black Country Visual Arts
Me and Sarvjit Sra began the Apna Heritage Archive to preserve the untold stories of Wolverhampton’s Punjabi community. We spent two years building a photographic archive which collected 2,000 images from the 1960s to the 1980s.
We also created 75 new portraits of the first generation of migrants and documented items of ephemera from those early years. We feel the archive will become a vital community resource as old photographs and documents recording Punjabi migration are added and digitised.
We gather so many stories from family albums. This picture here is of me and my brother. I still remember it as our parents got us dressed with our Osmonds T-Shirts and matching trousers and hair and went to the park which was on the end of the street and which was typical of most Punjabi’s would take pictures next to the flowers on display there. Dad would always number the month and year of the back of the picture. This one was taken in August 1978.
We wanted a world class finish to our work, and so we’re really excited that it culminated in an exciting exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery. It’s been an amazing roller coaster with a fantastic opening event which about 300 Punjabis attended from the city.
The Punjabi community, who aren’t used to seeing their place at the internationally renowned gallery, can now see themselves being celebrated and acknowledged for the tremendous impact they have within the city. Visitors from the community are blown away by it.
The project has been a labour of love and has consumed our lives in the two years we started it. The reward has very much been about having the acknowledgements from the Punjabi community – without you, my/our family’s heritage would be forgotten but now its been preserved!
The Apna Heritage Archive has been digitised on Black Country Visual Arts website and will be handed over to the City’s Archives for the public to access.
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