A new exhibition documenting the amazing journey of Gujarati people across two continents reveals the experiences of a Thornton Heath man at the hands of one of the worst dictators.
In the free exhibition Ghanshyam Patel (pictured) talks about his experiences when he met the evil Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.
‘Gujarati Yatra: journey of a people’ runs from November 14 to April 14 Tuesday to Saturday 10.30am to 5pm at the Museum of Croydon Croydon Clocktower.
‘Gujarati Yatra’ refers to the journey made by people from their original homeland in Gujarat on the west coast of India, to the south and east of Africa and finally on to Britain and other western countries.
The exhibition is inspired by Subrang Arts, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and curated by Rolf Killius and Lata Desai in partnership with the Museum of Croydon.
The exhibition documents 20 interviews many with people with connection with Thornton Heath who provide personal reflections, objects, and photos which travelled with the participants during their journey.
These stories also reveal the art, language, literature, food and religion of the Gujarati people and how these were preserved and adapted in different culture.
Mr Patel, a civil engineer who had helped build the famous sugar factories in Kakira, Uganda talks about how he was one of only five people left behind to keep the factory running when Idi Amin expelled all the Asians in 1972.
He stayed in Uganda for three more years after all the other Asians had left before finally coming to Thornton Heath as there was no future for his family in Uganda.
He is a prominent member of Gujarati Literary Academy and all his children are high achieving professionals contributing to the economy of Great Britain.
There are many residents of Thornton Heath who have given other objects for the exhibition including: Saris, and embroidered pieces.
The project held Gujarati embroidery workshops with more than 30 women, many from Thornton Heath, learning embroidery skills for 10 months which will be displayed at the Click Clock Art Gallery in the Clocktower.
Gujarati embroidery is a very unique technique which is slowly being lost with the younger generation. The idea of the workshops was to highlight this strong heritage.
Others interviewed for the exhibtion include ex Thornton Heath residents: Nitin Mehta (MBE) who is the President of the Vegetarian Society; Bhadra Vadgama, Secretary of Gujarati Literary Academy and Mahesh Kavi who worked for the Daily Nation newspaper and speaks about his experiences as he resettled here taking a job as a bus conductor and how he came to terms with this kind of job.
Now after 40 years in Thornton Heath, he talks about how he considers Thornton Heath as his new home and how he has adapted in this country.
For further details about the exhibition: www.gujaratiyatra.com