East African Asian Lives  – a Crescent Community Radio project

The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust works with community groups to record and share their heritage. We provide a range of services, from advice on completing a funding application, to training in oral history and reminiscence, delivery support and archiving. We can also offer room and equipment hire, exhibition space and help market events and outputs to a wider audience. 

The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre is based at Manchester Central Library. It preserves the material that groups produce on their projects and makes it publicly accessible. You can explore the archives by searching our catalogue and making an appointment to view items of interest. Examples of previous project work are available to browse on our website where you can also listen to extracts from our oral history collection

For South Asia Heritage Month we asked one of the groups we are currently working with to share news of their ongoing project. 

East African Asian Lives 

At Crescent Community Radio we are passionate about heritage and in particular Oral History.  Having previously successfully completed an Oral History project aimed at Kashmiri Heritage, we thought we would tackle a much less documented and smaller community – the ‘twice migrants’ from East Africa.  The term ‘twice migrants’ is often used for this community as they originally migrated from the Indian sub-continent to East Africa before then migrating again to the UK.   

 When Idi Amin seized power in Uganda in 1971 an estimated 60,000 people of South Asian origin were displaced.  Of those around 30,000 were British passport holders, who migrated to the UK. Numbers of displaced people increased as unrest spread to neighbouring countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia. Here is what some of those affected had to say:

‘It was very,very difficult, because you had to leave everything behind; the only amount of money one family could bring was £45.’ Mohammed Hanif Arien 

‘They sealed the banks; we couldn’t sell our household goods, we couldn’t bring our gold.’ Shamim Akhtar Ansari 

… We didn’t once turn back. At the airport the soldier questioned why we were leaving. We said ‘To study’. He said to me ‘You stay and marry me’. My heart was in my mouth.’ Shugufta Arien 

Our East African Asian Lives project documents some of these stories through video and audio interviews in English as well as other home languages.  Subjects include family and community life, political unrest, migration, resettlement, employment, housing and racism. 

The project began in February 2020 – just before the first ‘lockdown’!  So we had a bit of a challenging start; for example, we were unable to have a live launch and instead had an online and live radio programme launch.  Furthermore, we have had to delay the start of interviews due to social distancing and self-isolation matters.   Therefore, although the project was originally due to end in April 2021, we are now due to complete it by July 2021 with a final celebratory event on 31 July 2021 (dependent on Covid restrictions).   

So far, we have completed 26 full video interviews that will also be converted to audio interviews and available on Mixcloud, Youtube and Facebook.  We are aiming to complete 30 interviews in total.  We have also completed 15 live radio shows to promote the project and raise awareness of heritage amongst the East African community.  For our final event, we will be producing an exhibition involving A0 size placard posters, artefacts, banners and an audio/video presentation.  All content will be archived by the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre as well on Crescent Radio’s website, and social media.  

The importance of oral history cannot be underestimated.  Recording oral history first hand is a vital resource which documents the lives of local residents in an historic context. Not only is this academically vital but, for younger members from these communities, it is a vital part of understanding ’what makes them who they are’.     

As a result of our last two heritage projects, we are now a member of Heritage Compass which will build our capacity as a Heritage specialist organisation.  Furthermore, our projects have also led to work with the University of Manchester to look at musical memories from early childhood to today.  In the near future, we will be looking at other communities to document and record their stories, such as the Punjabi community in Greater Manchester.    

Faheem Chisti, Managing Director, Crescent Radio 

Peter Fitzgerald, amendments by Burmesedays, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons