Leicester-based Asian people are being invited to share their memories to mark the 40th anniversary of their expulsion from Uganda.
Community members attended a special event held at the Belgrave Neighbourhood Centre on Rothley Street today, (Saturday, March 10th) between 11am and 4pm. It is one of the many events organisers are hoping to hold, to gather information before the main exhibition takes place.
The exhibition titled ’40 Years: The Ugandan Asian Story’ will open at the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery on July 14th until September 30th.
Business and Development Manager at Leicester City Council, Nisha Popat, who is one of the organisers of the event, said: “We are also hoping to have a touring exhibition.
“Today we’ve been able to record stories of about 15 to 20 people and have had lots of phone calls. We are very happy with the response we’ve received.”
Museum staff were on hand to record interviews, help gather other material and photographs brought in by members of the public. Arts and craft tables were also laid out for children and adults to enjoy.
Around 10,000 Ugandan Asians are believed to have come to Leicester when Idi Amin asked all the Asians to leave the country in 1972.
Air cabin-crew member, Dipak Mistry, 47, was at the event and was only seven years old when his family fled to Leicester. His father used to be a mechanic with Ford and his mother, a housewife.
He said: “It wasn’t an ideal situation for us. We shipped whatever items we could, but the rest we just had to leave. We came to Leicester because we had extended family here.
“I went back to visit my hometown last year and everything had completely changed. Our family home had been demolished to make way for a shopping centre.”
Community Relations Worker, Ranjan Saujani, was another ex-Ugandan resident at the event. She was only 17-years old and studying at an Indian University when she heard the terrible declaration made by Idi Amin. She descried her hometown of Mbale as being such a beautiful place with very fertile land.
Speaking about the move she said: “I personally saw it as a good opportunity. There were so many opportunities that were open to us in the UK that we didn’t have back home.”
Retired social worker Sharda Jobanputra, 77 used to live in the town of Jinja and was head of the infant section at the school she used to teach at. When she arrived in Leicester at the age of 38, she was the sole carer for her elderly parents and was in search for a full time job. For her, language was no barrier as she was a well-educated woman and she recounts walking into a Woolworths shop and asking for a job.
She added: “I walked past the window and saw an advert for a job. I went inside and requested a job. They said we need to interview you first, so I said you can interview me now. Next thing I know they said – we’ll see you tomorrow. I worked there till the day the shop closed.”