My name is Fatima Sonyia Jamal, I am studying an MA by Research in Public History, Oral History, and Community Heritage at The University of Huddersfield. My thesis is about “The 1947 partition – the Childhood Memories and homeland nostalgia: Exploring Independence Day ceremony and what it meant to those who lived through partition.” Last year, after 12 years I visited to Pakistan, and during my visit I went the Wagah border ceremony and Lahore museum and witnessing that there was nothing in relation to commemorating 70th anniversary of partition. From my personal experience and being a part of the third generation, I was not taught about partition at school. This was one of my reasons to study this topic further, to commemorate the Diaspora South Asian community, and help to address the next generation of their ancestral history.
I will be exploring themes such as the commemorative and celebratory aspect of Independence Day, also looking at the first ‘transfer of power ceremony’. The Independence ceremony is a unique way for people to retrospect partition memories, however, the celebration aspect has overshadowed commemorative side of the traumatic impact of the Partition. The Wagah Border ceremony has been performed at the borders between Amritsar (India) and Lahore (Pakistan), since 1959. This ceremony has been taking place at a Walton refugee camp site, where millions of people died. The Wagah ceremony is full of contradictions, I will address the meaning behind this in connection with partition narrative. In the ceremony, the guards from both sides of the border perform a beating retreat, which shows patriotic and competitive sides of both countries. Lots of places after all perform ceremonial changing of the guards, but the particular context of Wagah makes it feel very distinctive. This ceremony showcases theatrical performance of partition narrative of ‘high politics’, but undermines the ordinary people’s view.
Recently I have volunteered for Chol Theatre to help organise and research for 70th Anniversary in Huddersfield, which took place the Lawrence Batley Theatre courtyard, 12th August 2017. It was a fabulous opportunity for me to take part in the creative, historical research and social media side of this project. It was an opportunity for the community to come together, have a cup of chai and a samosa. Also to experience old Indian music, dance, and performance with emotional theatrical play by Chol Theatre. This event was helpful to engage with local community, I interviewed people at the event to get their opinion about ‘celebration, commemoration, homeland nostalgia and partition memories’. This has helped my research to build up connections for oral history project.
I am researching for ‘The White Line’ heritage project, we are helping to archive oral history accounts in Huddersfield. Mandeep Samra created a mobile sound installation based on local people’s memories of partition. The stories were edited and pressed onto a set of vinyl disc which could be played on a vintage-style gramophone to give the stories a nostalgic feel. I helped Mandeep to engage with different communities, we explored non-traditional spaces to display the installation to reach a wider audience, indoors and outdoors. The installation toured various locations, including community centres, libraries, a local church, and The University of Huddersfield between August-November 2017 to engage diverse communities.
This opened an opportunity for us to present our work and sound installation at The National Archive, in November 2017. In January 2018, we will be displaying the sound installation at The University of Huddersfield for the ‘6 Million Plus’ Holocaust Memorial Day. The aim of this project is to archive people’s memory, engage with diverse audience, and share the memories of the people who were either children during partition or born just after the Partition. Also, to highlight that word ‘celebration’ of Independence Day has helped to strengthen nationalistic identity and it has overshadowed the commemorative aspect of the Partition. I have written a blog for The White Line project to express my experience, provided in the link below.
The white line project blog – https://thewhitelineproject.wordpress.com/2017/09/17/research-visits-part-one/
Personal blog – https://southasianhomeland.wordpress.com/author/sonyiajamal2000/
The Masala Tea Party in August 2017