I'm British But…

By Gurinder Chadha
1989. British Film Institute.

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In I'm British But… Director Gurinder Chadha, of Bend It Like Beckham fame, explores the idea of what it means to be South Asian in Britain. This same film serves as an inspiration for artist Jagdeep Singh Raina for his series of "story board" art work, featured in the Artist Run Centre, that recreates and re-interprets many of the images from the film. As Raina notes in the text introduction to his art work, Chadha links the history of the South Asian community in Britain to the migration streams from the Indian Subcontinent and its diasporas from the 1950's and 1960's.

Raina writes, "I remember viscerally how profoundly shaken I had become, when I watched Gurinder's film for the first time. The material depicted stories that were so familiar to me: the formation of South Asian youth culture, radical nightlife and club culture, and the haunting legacies of racism and imperialism that forever mark a community."

Through emails and visits with Chadha, Raina develops his series of drawings driven by a sense of post Brexit urgency and necessity. He notes:

"In the inaugural 1991-1992 issue of Rungh, I was astonished to uncover an entire generation of South Asian artists–Prem Khallat, Sunil Gupta, Pratibha Parmar to name a few – who were making experimental, ground breaking work that also came of age in the 1970s-1990s. This discovery has long since become a solemn reminder to me and my generation‐the millennial—of the importance of dismantling our heroic individualism and bravery when thinking about the foolish ways in which we seek to pioneer racialized spaces for South Asian voices in the art world. So often we our blinded by our privilege, being the children of South Asian immigrants coming of age in the 2000s and 2010s with having the gift of pursuing the arts, that we forget an entire generation of South Asian artists before us have been already doing this work: of breaking down the many doors for us to exist in these spaces. The archive, which has become such an important medium in contemporary art, reflecting how historical knowledge and memory are collected, stored and covered can teach us so much. We have much to learn, and sometimes doing this type of learning really requires us to take a good hard look at the past, and really see just how many stories and artists that were/are radical and futuristic in their visions, are becoming dangerously unrecognized, ignored, and swallowed up."

Within Raina's art, the artist has embedded text which adds a contemporary twist to the images depicted from the film: "we need this story now more than ever"; "the weaving of post colonial cosmopolitanism 2017"; and "attention mates why is our paki nationality not an outdated concept in 1988".

As a part of its "archive activation" project, Rungh is excited to present projects like Chadha's documentary and Raina's art that intersect art, archive, and the politics of belonging.

Gurinder Chadha

Gurinder Chadha is one of the United Kingdom's most proven and respected Film Director and Producers. View bio.

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