Literary and artistic expressions of black and Asian women from the Midlands
London has been central to the multi-cultural imagination of Britain. It is well-established as a ‘multi-cultural space’ from which several artists have articulated their experiences of ‘speaking one’s own language’ of tolerance and understanding. The purpose of this project is to shift the focus away from the ‘London-based’ writers and artists to those who present their experiences from another multi-cultural city. Birmingham is Britain’s second city and the Midlands comprise an extensive population of blacks and Asians. It is the work from this region, with its “characteristically forthright Birmingham flavour” that I wish to examine in my research. As an immigrant Asian myself, sharing the particular psychological and cultural location with the artists of this region, I am particularly interested in the regional expressions of Britishness and of ideas of home and location.
Although this project primarily focuses on writings by black and Asian women from this region, it also encompasses other forms of art, i.e. films, theatre and visual arts. The study involves feminist and postcolonial readings of such writing–the principal ones being anthologies of short stories entitled ‘Whispers in the Walls’ and ‘Her Majesty’ and novels by Meera Syal as well as scripts for the play ‘Behzti’ and the film ‘Bhaji on the Beach’. The chosen collections provide a fresh new outlook on the stereo-typical issues of arranged marriage, racism and culture clash and state women’s position of alienation – at home, in the community and in multi-cultural Britain.
Homi Bhaba has argued that a post-colonial perspective not simply formulates its critical reviews around issues of ‘cultural difference, social authority, and political discrimination’ but also examines ‘ways in which the “minority” literatures in Britain and the United States are locatable within the postcolonial paradigm’. My choice of writings for this project bring together experiences of postcolonial subjects in a globalising world.
The project also involves exploration of new endeavours to promote Black and Asian artists’ work from the Midlands. Some recently launched ventures are the ‘Original Skin’ project where established writers mentor new writers to develop their work and ‘Gallery 37’ where writing and visual arts are explored in response to an Ikon exhibition.