South Asian Heritage Month UK, with online events and exhibitions, words and images, recently came to an end. The aim was to transform how people connected with South Asian culture and identity through celebrating arts, culture and heritage, commemorating history and anniversaries, and ultimately through education. Like many others, I appreciate the time and effort which organisers and performers have put into this. Yet I found it difficult to engage.
There is much to enjoy in Asian food and music, art and architecture, the achievements of pro-independence campaigners, poetry and philosophy. However, I was disappointed that anti-racist struggle and solidarity – which, to me, are central to our heritage – seemed to fade into the background.
This is all the more surprising because some of those who spoke, sang, drew or danced have been part of this movement and continue to strive for change. Perhaps mainstream society tends to find it easier to celebrate difference if it adds colour and variety and sidesteps institutional injustice. And it may be tempting for us, too, not to dwell on what is painful or may lead to conflict with those who are powerful.