Published on August 11th, 2017 | by John OMeara



A neighbour of mine brought his Sikh martial arts troupe to a local fundraising event and they performed for and hour and a half and didn’t ask for a penny. Another Sikh neighbour has no time for the collective expressions of worship and culture, but reveres the core philosophy, and regularly reminds me about the wonder of the universe. I have felt first hand the benefits of the Sikh presence, and learned about Sikhism at the same time. I expected ‘My Story’ to provide insights into how the experiences of first and second generation migrants had led to different individual choices about identity, relationships, and how to live their lives.

What is the story? Who are the audience? These are complex questions for an exhibition on Sikh migration. The choice has been made to provide a lot of information about the Sikh religion (perhaps a story already told from a Handsworth perspective) alongside a very effective presentation of the big picture of migration patterns, and the survival of Sikh values in adverse circumstances.

Some of the feedback you can see suggests that many Sikhs are happy and proud about how the exhibition represents them. Other feedback does show a desire for more individual stories about the experiences migrants have been through. There are many facts on view but not many feelings, and sometimes I felt the exhibition was speaking at me rather than with me – that it was a bit too promotional. Overall, I think that ‘Our Journey’ has been covered well, but that ‘My Story’ doesn’t come through.

The mounting of the exhibition is a major achievement, it looks good in the space, and a wide mix of people and ages are coming to it; it is definitely worth a visit (it runs until 22nd October at the Museum and Art Gallery and admission is free). And it is only a beginning: there is time for it to develop in the heritage area at Nishkam, and Nishkam are asking people to get in touch with their stories. With this, and with plentiful and diverse feedback, both the story and the audience may become ever wider.

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