Published on October 2nd, 2017 | by Gaelle Finley



Handsworth kicked off Black History Month with a rare showing of African Oasis, a documentary directed in 1982 by one of the first young Asian film makers of the time Yugesh Walia, and produced by Roger Shannon (right and left of photo). This took place on Sunday 1st October 2017 at Soho House, and was followed by a Q & A with the director and the producer.

This film explores the former Handsworth Cultural Centre, which was run by director Bob Ramdhanie, who managed to obtain funds from the Probation Service to run it and its activities in order to give ‘positive energy to young black people’.

African Oasis was funded by the Arts Council in 1982, and produced by Birmingham Film Workshop. Director Yugesh Walia covers all aspects of the cultural and social provision offered by the Handsworth Cultural Centre, including dance, music, film and the African Village, which were all part of the Centre’s unique approach to ‘re culturalisation’ and the development of new cultural identities in the face of negative strereotyping. Both the dance company Kokuma and reggae band Oneness are filmed in concert, and in the studio spaces at the Centre. Bob Ramdhanie and Derrick Anderson discuss eloquently the background and the need for such a Centre in Handsworth. (Such a need still exists to this day although unfortunately the Cultural Centre is no more)

A lot of people who attended the Cultural Centre progressed in life: some have successful businesses and careers in their chosen field and some even have an OBE. It was a really important phase in many people’s development”. Nicky Reid (right), who also featured in the film.

African Oasis is the third film in Birmingham based director Yugesh Walia’s trilogy of films made in the early 1980s with funding from West Midlands Arts, Birmingham Film Workshop and the Arts Council of Great Britain,  highlighting aspects of Black and Asian culture in Britain (Mirror Mirror in 1980; Sweet Chariot in 1981; African Oasis in 1982). These can be accessed via Vivid Projects. Contact Yasmeen  Baig-Clifford, Director. Email: yasmeen@vividprojects.org.uk – web: http://www.vividprojects.org.uk

The screening was accompanied by a pop up presentation of selected material from the print archive of Brian Homer, a photographer, designer and writer who was part of the original Handsworth Self Portrait project in 1979.

Active in community publishing for over 30 years, Brian shared notable editions from the alternative news and listings magazines Grapevine and Broadside produced in Handsworth during the 1970- early 1980s.

The event was shown in the Soho House exhibition room, at present featuring works by celebrated photographer Vanley Burke, The extraordinary lives of everyday people, which explores the lives of everyday Birmingham people. You can connect and respond to the memories from Jamaica and Bangladesh, and find out how activists have fought for their rights. The exhibition will be shown until 26 October, Wed & Thu 11am-4pm, and first Sunday of the month 11am-4pm. Soho House, Soho Avenue, Birmingham B18 5LB (0121 348 8150). www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/soho/whats-on/the-extraordinary-lives-of-everyday-people

Do you remember the Handsworth Cultural Centre? Vivid Projects and Collecting Birmingham  explore some of the hidden histories of Birmingham, contained in their archives and collections.

Collecting Birmingham is a project aiming to collect and share real stories and objects from Aston, Soho, Nechells and Ladywood. They want to know what it was really like growing up, living and working in these areas. They will concentrate on music and sports in November and December.

If you have a story of object to share, please contact Charlotte Holmes, on 0121 3488192, or email: collectingbirmingham@birminghammuseums.org.uk

More photos from Brian Homer’s archive:

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