The exhibition ‘Virāsat’, meaning ‘legacy’ or ‘inheritance’, delves into the rich heritage of British South Asian migration, diasporic culture and lived experience between 1950 and 2000.

Curated by Jaivant Patel Company, ‘Virāsat’ presents 2 projects called Nritya and Pravās to amplify British South Asian representation in oral histories rooted in Wolverhampton and the Black Country.

‘Pravās Black Country’ reveals the story of Gujarati migration collected from first and second generation families between 1950 and 1990. ‘Nritya Black Country’ explores the untold story of the development of Indian Dance in the Black Country between 1960 and 2000.

‘Pravās’, meaning ‘to emigrate’, tells the powerful and inspiring story of Gujarati migration to the Black Country using memories collected from first and second generation elders and their families. 

The first generation of Gujarati migrants were pioneers creating new communities and enriching the places they settled in, but their experiences have not been recorded or acknowledged in local history collections and timing is now crucial. Without the ‘Pravās’ project, this important aspect of the history of the Black Country would be lost.

The history of Gujarati migration has shown how culture both retains its distinctiveness through migrations around the world but also adapts to the circumstances people find themselves in. The Gujarati communities brought a unique form of their culture to the UK that became imbedded in and contributed to the British South Asian culture we know and experience today.

‘Nritya’ explores the largely unwritten and unrecorded history of the development of Indian dance in the Black Country. It celebrates the roots of Indian dance in the region and features stories, memories, photographs, films and objects collected from some of the pioneer dancers, teachers and choreographers.

During the second half of the twentieth century, migrants from the Indian subcontinent arrived in Britain start a new life. The first generation of artists were innovators, bringing art forms with them that were new to this country. They brought classical, folk and traditional dance styles, finding space in temples, community halls and cultural events to perform and keep their Indian heritage alive. 

Since 2019, the Nritya Black Country project has gathered stories and memories from members from across all communities who encountered Indian dance during this period. Visitors will discover the interwoven threads, connecting people, places and cultural heritage with a nod to the future with contemporary artists reinventing Indian dance.

City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Visitor City, Councillor Bhupinder Gakhal, said: “This is a wonderfully informative, vibrant and vital exhibition which explores the unique and complex heritage of British South Asian culture and shows how important, innovative and innovative Indian arts are.

“‘Virāsat’ is a must see exhibition, the culmination of a massive undertaking of gathering and sharing compelling stories from British South Asian culture across recent decades; this is an incredible opportunity to allow us and future generations to learn and grow from all of these experiences.”

Jaivant Patel, Artistic Director, Jaivant Patel Company said, “Representation of British South Asian migration, culture and lived experience needs exposing and amplifying within heritage contexts that are reflective of the diasporic communities who have built lives in the UK. 

“Jaivant Patel Company is pleased to have contributed towards raising the profile of these stories by the way of oral histories and memories, particularly those coming from Wolverhampton and the Black Country. This embedded an appreciation of Indian arts into the cultural fabric of this country. It contributed to establishing British South Asian culture, enabling communities to feel proud, value and have ownership of their heritage and art forms that had travelled with them. 

“Now, 60 years on, it is time to celebrate and highlight the contribution of these pioneers whose influence still resonates today.”

This exhibition is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Art Council England.

For more information, please visit Wolverhampton Arts & Culture.