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My Roots, My Culture exhibition opens at Northumbria University

A photographic exhibition about to open on Tyneside begins to uncover the heritage of ethnic minority women in the North East

Nigerian Woman's Pride from the My Roots, My Culture exhibition
pix to go with BAM Sisterhood project piece

Stories which have gone untold for decades and a significant slice of North East heritage of which there is currently little evidence, form the basis of a new exhibition in Newcastle.

My Roots, My Culture opens at Northumbria University for a month-long run on March 7 and offers a photographic insight into the first six months of the Angelou Centre’s BAM! Sistahood project, which is aiming to uncover and tell the story of the region’s black, asian, minority ethnic and refugee (BAMER) women communities.

The exhibition celebrates the research and development phase of the Heritage Lottery funded project, which focuses on the cultural, social and political heritage of four generations of BAMER women, a so far undocumented chapter of regional history.

Featuring the photography work of regional participants as well as North East artists Phyllis Christopher, Kate Sweeney, Lalya Gaye and Kay Donnelly, this exhibition traces the last six months of the intergenerational project, which has engaged with more than 120 women across the region.

It also offers a visual representation of its innovative use of digital technologies to unravel, map and archive the last 70 years of BAMER women’s history, tracing the integration of generations of women who have worked, lived and raised families in the region.

“We wanted to make sure the project was authentic and representative of the women it was about, so it was really important to involve them in every aspect of it,” says Rosie Lewis, who is co-ordinating the research and development of the project at the Angelou Centre in Newcastle, which exists to support BAMER women in the region.

“The involvement of women has been regionwide, but there have been around 50 women from Newcastle, Middlesbrough and South Northumberland who have been involved in producing photographs for the exhibition and taking part in digital training.”

As well as £23,000 of funding from the Heritage Lottery fund and the exhibition partnership with Northumbria University, the project has also received support from Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums and Newcastle University’s Culture Lab, who have worked in partnership with the Angelou Centre to explore aspects of digital design and technology that can help engagement with potential participants.

“The best way to display and share the archive materials will be in digital formats, so it’s important that people have the skills to access it,” adds Rosie.

As well as being embraced by hundreds of people all over the region, who have shown their support during a number of community events in recent months, the project has also received support from Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central and shadow minister for Business, Innovation and Skills.

She says: “It is really important to record the amazing stories of our mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers who often overcame huge obstacles, unsung and unsupported.

“I welcome the BAM! Sistahood! Project as a way of helping us preserve these stories and present them to a wider audience so we can all appreciate our diverse heritage and shared future.”

With the exhibition signalling the end of the initial phase of BAM!, the team are now awaiting a decision on a Heritage Lottery Fund application to support a two-year continuation of the project.

Executive director of the Angelou Centre, Umme Imam says: “The Heritage Lottery Fund have been extremely supportive and encouraging of the work we plan to do, which will hopefully establish a landmark project that ensures all communities understand more about diversity and our shared cultural heritage”

If you have information, photographs or any resources you think may be of use, or you would like to contribute your story to the BAM! Sistahood! Project contact Rosie on 0191 226 0394 or rosie@angelou-centre.org.uk

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