Fanteland and the Coastal Coalition

To mark International Slavery Day (23rd August), Jo Manby reviews:

The Fante and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, by Rebecca Shumway (University of Rochester Press: Rochester, NY & Woodbridge, Suffolk 2011) (Reprinted 2014)

The Fante and the Transatlantic Slave Trade diverges from previous accounts of the relationship between Fante political history and the Atlantic slave trade, which have tended to focus on and to amalgamate Akan ancestry; the period of the gold trade (fifteenth to seventeenth century); or the era of British colonial rule, within the context of Ghana’s Gold Coast.

Instead, the focus here is on the development of ‘Fanteland’, a location of specific language and culture, the eighteenth-century political unification of Ghana’s coastal people, and the creation of a coalition government, which Shumway refers to as the Coastal Coalition.
Photograph of Fante and the Transatlantic Slave Trade cover Continue reading

Hidden Depths: The Institute of Race Relations Newspaper Clippings Collection

We’ve recently done a little conservation and access work on our Institute of Race Relations (IRR) Newspaper Clippings collection. It really is one of the gems of our archive – a vast collection of race-related stories from provincial UK newspapers, covering the short but intense period of September 1977 to April 1984.

The collection has been in need of some TLC for a while. It takes up 49 lever arch files, in varying states of dilapidation. We’ve only been able to replace the ones that were most severely falling apart, but we’ve also relocated a whole box of orphaned pages and moved the more fragile sheets to separate storage. With the detailed content summaries we now have for each folder, this is starting to feel like a much more accessible collection, ready to have its hidden depths explored by intrepid researchers….

Picture1 Continue reading

Kotha & Kantha: Bangladeshi Women’s Memoir Project

Kotha & Kantha: Bangladeshi Women’s Memoir Project (BWMP) funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England – Grants for the Arts Award, and the Education Trust, and supported by the Longsight-based Manchester Bangladeshi Women’s Organisation Ananna, and Archives+, began in April this year. Right now, we are tying up the evaluation and the final details of the project as the summer progresses, giving us time to reflect on the impact it has had already.

“I have learned to sew and write stories and poems and enjoyed photography.”

The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust. Kotha and Kantha: Bangladeshi Women’s Memoir Project Picture: Jason Lock Full credit always required as stated in T&C's. Specified release use only, no further reproduction without prior permission. Picture © Jason Lock Photography +44 (0) 7889 152747 +44 (0) 161 431 4012 info@jasonlock.co.uk www.jasonlock.co.uk

The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust. Kotha and Kantha: Bangladeshi Women’s Memoir Project
Picture: Jason Lock
Full credit always required as stated in T&C’s. Specified release use only, no further reproduction without prior permission.
Picture © Jason Lock Photography
+44 (0) 7889 152747
+44 (0) 161 431 4012
info@jasonlock.co.uk
http://www.jasonlock.co.uk

We decided to work with the Bangladeshi community because 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Ahmed Iqbal Ullah, the Bangladeshi boy murdered in the playground of a local Manchester school, and in whose memory our Trust and Centre are named. We are also carrying out an HLF project ‘The Legacy of Ahmed’, collecting oral histories. The Kotha & Kantha project has complemented and enhanced the HLF project and the artistic outputs of the women’s work will be showcased at a larger celebration event for this project, and be included in an exhibition in the Community Exhibition space in Central Library.
BWMP was devised to strengthen the work we do with artists, improve the skills of the artists involved and improve the writing and embroidery skills of the participants. We also hope it will increase knowledge about race, racism, migration, history and culture for the wider community.
Two sets of six workshops run by two arts professionals, the playwright and teacher Dipali Das and Senior Lecturer in Textiles in Practice at Manchester Metropolitan University, Lynn Setterington, took place over a period of four months. During this time the glass meeting room on the ground floor of Central Library has been filled with laughter, friendliness, reminiscences and creativity. Eight women of Bangladeshi origin, referred to The Centre by Ananna, formed a group together and at the outset did not necessarily know each other. But by the time the project had finished firm friendships had been established.

“Having the pleasure of meeting new people, writing I enjoyed especially about past memories. Also the photography and sharing discussion groups.”

The women met with Dipali, invited by The Centre to be the Writer in Residence for BWMP, to experiment with a different literary form each week. In the first session, Dipali threw out the prompt ‘I come from…’, hearing that most of the women had only been in the UK for around two years, and one for three months (although some had been living in Europe prior to coming here). There was a free-association round where the women were asked to share words that summed up what felt like ‘home’ to them, whether that meant home as in Manchester or home as in Bangladesh. At the end of the two hour session, all of the women had written an ‘I come from…’ poem, making it an encouragingly productive experience from the outset for all concerned.

“My most memorable thing in the whole project is writing poetry and sharing my life story.”

Subsequent weeks saw the production of sheets of drawings and memoir; recalling childhood games and traditional songs and writing them down; recipes from home (the women were very generous and brought in examples of home-cooked sweets or pitha to share among themselves and The Centre staff) and traditional folk tales.

“I think I like everything specially, very specially pitha recipe and story.”

food
In the penultimate week the women wrote down memories of the War of Independence and the results were heart-breaking to read. As the weeks went by and the embroidery workshops with Lynn began, the group became more and more devoted to the project – rather than the other way round: quite often, it can be difficult to motivate a group to commit to long projects such as this but in this case, the women came back week after week and genuinely enjoyed the experience, which was very rewarding.

“I liked everything in the workshop, specially writing childhood story and childhood memory. It’s remembered my childhood.”

We did also try to encourage a group of Bangladeshi women from Oldham to join in with the Manchester-based project but unfortunately they were put off by the length of travelling time that that would require. However, Dipali was able to deliver a one-day version of BWMP in Oldham and five women produced their own versions of the ‘I come from…’ poems. These are also included in the bound volume under the section headed ‘Oldham Poems’.

“I come from beautiful trees
I come from supermarket
I come from car and bus
I come from drive.”

As the project drew on we came closer to the date of the celebration event, to be held on the 20th July in the Performance Space at Central Library, to which the women were able to invite family and friends to join The Centre’s own staff, board members and associates, and they indicated that they would be happy to read out examples of their own work at the event. We were a little surprised, but delighted, with this enthusiasm.

“I like everything, properly. Sure, photography, embroidery, new people. I learned how to write a poem.”

letter

Photograph courtesy of Dipali Das.


Prior to the celebration event, we put together a bound volume of all the women’s writing and drawings, which also includes photography by the project’s professional photographer, Jason Lock, and which is available for browsing through at The Centre. This involved a large amount of translation, which Dipali’s mother, Asha Rani Das, kindly undertook, together with scanning and organising into sections. There began to be rehearsal spots added onto workshop sessions, so that a running order for the readings at the event could be organised.

The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust. Kotha and Kantha: Bangladeshi Women’s Memoir Project Picture: Jason Lock Full credit always required as stated in T&C's. Specified release use only, no further reproduction without prior permission. Picture © Jason Lock Photography +44 (0) 7889 152747 +44 (0) 161 431 4012 info@jasonlock.co.uk www.jasonlock.co.uk

The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust. Kotha and Kantha: Bangladeshi Women’s Memoir Project
Picture: Jason Lock
Full credit always required as stated in T&C’s. Specified release use only, no further reproduction without prior permission.
Picture © Jason Lock Photography
+44 (0) 7889 152747
+44 (0) 161 431 4012
info@jasonlock.co.uk
http://www.jasonlock.co.uk

The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust. Kotha and Kantha: Bangladeshi Women’s Memoir Project Picture: Jason Lock Full credit always required as stated in T&C's. Specified release use only, no further reproduction without prior permission. Picture © Jason Lock Photography +44 (0) 7889 152747 +44 (0) 161 431 4012 info@jasonlock.co.uk www.jasonlock.co.uk

The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust. Kotha and Kantha: Bangladeshi Women’s Memoir Project
Picture: Jason Lock
Full credit always required as stated in T&C’s. Specified release use only, no further reproduction without prior permission.
Picture © Jason Lock Photography
+44 (0) 7889 152747
+44 (0) 161 431 4012
info@jasonlock.co.uk
http://www.jasonlock.co.uk

The embroidery workshops were a visual delight, with the glass meeting room’s table strewn with jewel-bright threads and flickering needles, and the women each produced a square sample of traditional Kantha embroidery, becoming more deeply coloured and intensively worked with each successive week. At the celebration event, which was attended by over 80 guests, the Kanthas were displayed on exhibition screens. Another major part of the project was the photography commissioned from Jason Lock. With great sensitivity and tact, he familiarised the women with the idea of taking portrait photographs of them in their finery, to be printed out onto sheer fabric panels which were eventually displayed at the event on fine wooden constructions so that they were lit from behind by the natural light streaming in through the performance space windows. In total 8 portraits were used in this way, but in addition, as mentioned above in relation to the bound volume of writings, Jason took many other photographs of the women at work and a selection of these were reproduced and displayed on a second exhibition screen.

“The most memorable thing from my involvement was the photography.”

One of the fantastic outcomes from the project is that at least one of the women has written poetry since Dipali’s workshops and seven out of seven women said that they would attend a similar project again.
In the autumn, Dipali will be producing a second bound volume with us to be kept on The Centre’s shelves, comprising of her own writings based on the AIUC’s archives and collections. This will include the stage play We Fight to Save a Flower, an excerpt of which was read by Dipali and Centre staff-member Sam Kalubowila as part of the celebration event.

CHARU We’re free?
SUMESH Yesterday was our day of Independence. 16th December 1971. Bangla Desh. Land of the Bangla people. It sounds good. Doesn’t it?

 

sam and dipali

* Find the volume ‘Kotha & Kantha: Bangladeshi Women’s Memoir Project’ bound in red and blue on the shelves of the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre collection, Lower Ground Floor in Central Library.
* Follow the display of Kotha & Kantha: Bangladeshi Women’s Memoir Project as it tours local libraries and other venues over the next six months.

Book Review: Fire in the Ashes

This review is adapted from an original piece published in the Centre’s journal Ethnicity and Race in a Changing World.

Book review: Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America by Jonathan Kozol (Crown Publishers: New York 2012)

Review by Jo Manby

This book is evidence of the kind of enduring, personal relationship that an ethnographer or documentarist can build up within a community if they invest their time and open their hearts to those around them.

Jonathan Kozol has been working with children in inner-city schools in the United States for almost fifty years. Over several years, he has been in conversation with a group of children from one of its poorest urban neighbourhoods. He begins his story – the story of these children – with a picture of New York City’s poor and homeless people on Christmas Eve 1985, thousands of them ‘packed into decrepit, drug-infested shelters, most of which were old hotels situated in the middle of Manhattan’ (p.3). Continue reading

Hulme and the Nightmare Scenario

Image of a pair of glasses on a book

The Roving Reader Files

 

We all have our dreams. But what if they turn into nightmares?

Take the Hugh Wilson and Lewis Womersley firm of chartered architects and town planners. In the 1960s they dreamt of solving the problems of twentieth-century living by providing quality design and housing to a level reached in the eighteenth century for Bloomsbury and Bath. By using similar shapes and proportions, large scale building groups and open spaces, plus skilful landscaping and extensive tree planting, they hoped to make their dream reality. Where? Don’t laugh when I tell you. Hulme in Manchester.

Yes, Hulme was to be the setting for pioneering brave new town planning. The slums were to be cleared and in their place would arise beauty. There was just one problem. The designers’ dream became the Hulme residents’ nightmare scenario. Leafing through the Centre’s Hulme Study Collection, I came across Wilson and Womersley’s hopeful musings on the cover of Manchester City Council’s Survey Report  Hulme. A Position Statement September, 1987.

Photograph of an archive box containing Hulme reportsClose up of Hulme report, with a statement architecturally comparing Hulme with Georgian London and Bath Continue reading

Voices of the Black Panthers Book Reviews #2

Book Review: The Black Panthers Speak, Edited by Philip S. Foner, new Foreword by Barbara Ransby (Haymarket Books: Chicago 2014)
(first published by J.B. Lippincott Company: Philadelphia & New York, 1970)

Review by Jo Manby

The Black Panthers Speak is a bibliographic archive of correspondence, news, rules, speeches and poems – the documents that underpinned the fabric of the Black Panther Party’s (BPP) organisation.

The 2014 republishing of The Black Panthers Speak, an essential documentary history of the BPP, is indeed timely. Compiled and edited by Philip S. Foner (1910-1994), this is a new edition with an updated foreword by the writer, historian and political activist Barbara Ransby. When first published in 1970, the volume sought to counter the many misinterpretations that the BPP was subject to.

close up image of the book title

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Voices of the Black Panthers Book Reviews #1

Book Review: My People are Rising: Memoir of a Black Panther Party Captain by Aaron Dixon (Haymarket Books: Chicago 2012)

Review by Jo Manby

Despite the presence of a Black president in the White House, America persists in incarcerating unprecedented numbers of Black and ethnic minority males. The Sentencing Project states that ‘for Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day’. This autobiographical work, My People are Rising: Memoir of a Black Panther Party Captain reminds us of the issues the Black Panther Party (BPP) stood for, most of which, including this and other racial injustices, remain unresolved today. Aaron Dixon gives us a first-hand account of the BPP’s history.

book cover Continue reading

Southern Voices Project Archive Collection – Part 1

By Jo Manby

The Southern Voices (SV) archive collection relates to the establishment and development of the Manchester based organisation Southern Voices, founded in 1990 and originally named the Southern Voices Project. Southern Voices is still running; however, the AIU Centre archive holding runs up until the year 2009.

Image of Southern Voices logo

Courtesy Southern Voices

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The Crucial Hours: The Stephen Lawrence Newspaper Cuttings Collection – Part 2

By Jo Manby

This is the second post in the two-part series which aims to give an overview of the contents of the Stephen Lawrence Newspaper Cuttings archive collection, gathered together over the decades by AIUC founding director, Louis Kushnick, and now being made available for reference by researchers and members of the public.

The first post looked at the first three of six themes running through the collection (The Metropolitan Police, the Lawrence family and the Macpherson Report). This second post looks at the community reaction, the perpetrators and the criminal justice system.

Montage of newspaper clippings

Clippings from 1999

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