India in Britain

A major new outdoor touring exhibition honours the long history of the Indian presence in Britain and its impact on British life.

‘At the Heart of the Nation: A Photographic Exhibition celebrating India in Britain’ tells the story through a series of striking photographic images, the exhibition documents the diverse histories which make up the shared heritage of India and Britain from 1870, the earliest image in the exhibition, to the present day.

Curated to coincide with the India-UK Year of Culture for 2017, the exhibition grew out of a decade-long research project exploring South Asian and Indian-British connections. Spanning almost two centuries - from the period of the British Raj through to the better-known era of post-war migration to today - the exhibition, and an accompanying website, is a visual history of India’s impact on Britain’s cultural, intellectual and political life, national and global politics, human rights and equality, the arts and sport.

The exhibition is currently on tour in Edinburgh Mound Precinct until 1st of October. After that it will travel to:

8th October – 15th October – LONDON, London Bridge Pier

16th October – 26th October – LEEDS, Victoria Gardens

 “By touring this outdoor exhibition, we want to swivel the perspective and examine India’s role within Britain (rather than Britain’s well-documented historical presence in India)” explained the Project Director, Professor Susheila Nasta, MBE.

“The images trace Indian-British interactions across the divides of race, class, and gender, drawing public attention to the complex realities of both countries’ intertwined histories. The accompanying events and online tools will reach wide public audiences. We hope this will fire imaginations and provoke reflection so we remember the huge impact India and South Asia have had on contemporary British life,” she further added.

Famous personalities are celebrated, alongside images of the ordinary and every day. The images also document moments of adversity and the discrimination faced by those who made their homes here in Britain.

From giants of history to the unnamed and unrecognised, the exhibition shines a light on the many individuals who have shaped British life.

Queen Victoria is depicted with her favoured Munshi, Abdul Karim; Gandhi is pictured visiting female textile workers in Lancashire; and the first Indian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore, is photographed in London. Soldiers and airmen from the two World Wars, factory workers in Northern England, judges, door-to-door salesman (a familiar sight in 1930s rural Britain), corner shop owners and doctors all show the diversity of the Indian contribution to British working life. There are many courageous campaigners portrayed including pioneering Members of Parliament, suffragettes, trade unionists and men and women who fought for social justice. Sportsmen such as Monty Panesar and octogenarian marathon runner Fauja Singh are celebrated alongside those from the creative fields. 

Photo Credit: (c) British Library Board Photo 24/(294)