Our Stories That Made Us project is led by Hardish Virk. Read his blog here about why he chose to continue his father’s work and collect his own archive of South Asian artefacts.
The first stage of of the project’s development between June and November 2022 was funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund.
The project is inspired by two Coventry collections of South Asian artefacts. The first is Hardish’s own archive, consisting of over 1000 items, including vinyl records, cassettes, minidiscs, CDs, videos, DVDs, reports, books, magazines, posters, newspapers, passports, photographs, writings, clothes, jewellery, ornaments, paintings, and more. The other is the Virk Collection, Hardish’s father’s collection, which is held at The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. Both offer opportunities to explore themes of identity, representation, opportunity and access. The project recognises the importance of owning and telling South Asian stories in public spaces, and celebrates the contribution of the South Asian community to every aspect of British life.
As part of the first phase of the project Hardish worked with artist and archivist Paramjit Sehmi to begin the cataloging of the archive, and researching best practice for storing and working with it.
We have also been taking proactive measures to be inclusive, remove barriers to access and reach new and diverse audiences through the delivery of the first phase of the project. As part of this commitment we ran Stories That Made Us: Migration and Identity, a series of events on 23 July 2022. These events were part of South Asian Heritage Month and were kindly supported by Warwick University. Alongside the events our South Asian Ambassadors produced an exhibition, Unshackled, exploring themes of identity.
Alongside the events on 23 July, we released 3 videos on our YouTube Channel by Dr Virinder Kalra, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick. These describe his current research on South Asian diasporic vernacular literature and include readings from Punjabi stories by Kailash Puri and Jasvir Kang, two women writers who give us narratives that are often ignored or overlooked.
Images (inspired by content from the Stories That Made Us Archive) Top: Original by Tejal Gohil 2022 Above left: Original design by Daya Illustrations 2022
The first phase of the project has been documented in various ways, including a film (see below) and photographs by artist Ayesha Jones. Over September and October we also commissioned two local artists of South Asian heritage to create their own unique graphic/illustration for the project in response to the themes it explores. Each artist also provided a blog reflecting on the artwork they created and what they found in the archive that captured their imagination.
Congratulations to the following two artists who were awarded the commission!
The theme of identity is a topic that Tejal regularly explores through her creative practice, and she grew up with a passion for hearing her parent’s stories of Gujarat where her mum is from, and old Hindi songs that her Dad used to play growing up. Tejal’s work also delves into her own experiences growing up in Coventry, and her memories of visiting India.
Daya Bhatti’s creative practice is an exploration of her Indian cultural heritage and identity through portraiture, fashion illustrations, animations and painting on textiles. Daya’s art not only expresses her connection with culture but also the value to previous generations before and alongside her. Her practice has become a learning experience with the purpose of visually communicating the significance of traditions, history and social issues.
Read Daya’s blog to find out more about her process and the inspiration for her design
With grateful thanks to the Heritage Fund for supporting these activities.
Hardish Virk has worked in the arts and cultural sectors since the 1980s as a DJ, actor, director, producer and author. The main focus of his work over the last 25 years has been on advising artists, arts companies and cultural institutions on organisational and audience development – specifically around access and equality. He has worked across the UK and in Europe.