Tasawar Bashir. Picture: National Memorial Arboretum
Tasawar Bashir. Picture: National Memorial Arboretum

 The artist behind a new exhibition at the National Memorial Arboretum says he hopes it will help bring to life the stories of forgotten military heroes.

Prayers for the Past is on display at the Alrewas centre for remembrance.

Created by Tasawar Bashir, the exhibition explores the forgotten stories of service from Birmingham’s South Asian communities through soundscapes, sculptural bowls and a digital prayer mat.

He explained how – due to their low profile and less glamorous roles – their history during the First and Second World Wars was largely ignored by official military narratives.

As a result, subsequent generations of British-born South Asians have either no knowledge or many unanswered questions about elders who took part in various military campaigns. 

Tasawar said:

“When these brave servicemen returned from their military campaigns, they returned with stories about the world they had seen, with money in their pockets and with military pensions, some were awarded tracts of land.

“The story of how South Asian communities came to settle in Britain from the 1930s onwards can, in part, be explained by the forgotten story of these men and women.

“Those living in the Diaspora today, areas such as the West Midlands, have been left impoverished by having no officially-recorded history of this period.

“As an artist my work explores creative methods and modes of expression to tackle social injustice – I believe some communities struggle because they do not fully grasp their cultural capital, especially when their social histories are hidden or distorted.”

Tasawar Bashir

Wanting to explore the stories of those who served, Tasawar studied letters written by soldiers held in the British Library, referred to the work of scholars, and consulted with community leaders who he worked alongside for 12 months in Birmingham.

“It has been inspiring to work with community elders to unearth some of the previously untold stories, filling the knowledge gap, while recognising their incredible service.” 

Tasawar Bashir

The free Prayers for the Past exhibition is part of the Sports, Service and the Commonwealth programme running throughout the summer at the National Memorial Arboretum.

For the full programme, visit www.thenma.org.uk/commonwealth.


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