Skip to main content

Multicultural narratives missing from remembrance

The traditions of remembrance are repeated year after year in comforting ritual and moments of national unity follow patterns so familiar and sacred that the absence of ethnic minority groups often goes unnoticed and unchallenged.

Yet it is deeply problematic for multicultural nations to have narratives that exclude people from their shared identity – an issue addressed by Dr Sanjay Sharma, senior lecturer at Brunel University in the Noise of the Past project.

The Arts & Humanities Research Council-funded project used the creative process of making public art to bring people together. Integral to this was the “call and response” method devised by Dr Sharma, which provided a framework for collaboration between academics, artists and the public.

Ethnic minority and majority groups came together to produce a film and live musical performance on Indian soldiers in the World Wars. They developed a shared understanding of this history as they made sense of academic texts, film, sound archives, letters and photographs.

Critically, this was then shared more widely through a performance in Coventry Cathedral during its Peace Festival in November. Set in a place and month synonymous with war and reconciliation, made it a major and public intervention in conventional ways of doing national remembrance.

The Noise of the Past works have subsequently toured nationally and internationally, typically including a Q&A session to allow more audiences to explore how remembrance can be genuinely multicultural.

Three ‘best short film’ international awards and an Amsterdam Film Festival Van Gogh Award further demonstrate the film’s reach and cultural impact.