‘No Tears for me my mother’, is a lovely book written by Panya Banjoko from the Nottingham Black Archive. The book is part of a ‘community capsule’, recounting the experiences of Black ex-service personnel in World War 2. I worked on the project from the Nottingham Photographers’ Hub, and wrote the following forward for the book.
Forward : No tears for me my mother
I remember being told at school that Winston Churchill had once claimed that the ‘British’ stood alone against the might of Hitler’s Germany. What I never realized until I was much older that when Churchill meant ‘British’ he was talking about the whole of the British empire, British ‘subjects of the Queen’ in Africa, Caribbean, the Indian sub-continent, Burma as well as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.
During the war the British Empire raised a total of 8,586,000 men to fight, nearly four million men and women came from Britain’s colonies. Thousands died, and many more were wounded or spent years as PoWs. Yet for the past century, their sacrifice has been largely ignored.
Over the past 20 years the Lottery Heritage Fund have funded many community projects showing that heritage is not just for the privileged, but everyone. Its work shows that English Heritage has a rich multicultural and pluralistic tapestry, and that issues around multiculturalism are not recent events. However, it is still very difficult to find out about the contribution black people made during the war.
In this context this project is very important. Firstly, this is a heritage project for Nottingham’s Black community; to recognize, record and archive their contribution to the war. Secondly, the project has provided an opportunity for the community to recount their lives and histories, in their own voices. The project could only have happened because of the vision and good reputation that Nottingham Black Archive has with Black Elders in Nottingham. This project was put together with the Nottingham Black Archive in consultation with Black Elders from Nottingham, and Nottingham Photographer’s Hub. It has been delivered through a very real collaboration. Its achievement and importance becomes more poignant when you realize for some of the elders, it is one final opportunity to tell their story for future generations.
The project is therefore also important because it is leaving a legacy, which future generations of people can access. They will be able to do this through objects, a DVD, website, book and other materials. The advancement of digital photography has increasingly meant that almost anyone can document his or her life, something that will bring a new light to the Heritage work in the future. At the Photographers’ Hub we harness the power of photography with people who may not access the arts. This inevitably means using photography to build ‘historical traces’ to inform and empower people. For us this has been an important project. We have enjoyed being able to help the elders record and tell their stories.
In 2014, the world will be holding events to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. Many books will be published, most leaving out the contribution of people from the former colonies. It is perhaps a good time to remember not just the comments of Churchill, but also of the Trinidadian writer, CLR James who once commented that some aspects of our culture are universal and do not any longer belong to just one people or one country. He was talking the music of Beethoven and its adoption in Trinidad, yet now is as good time a time as any to acknowledge that the two World Wars were not just a ‘British’ or even European affair. It involved sacrifices from people across the globe and really was a ‘World War’. The contribution made by the black community in Nottingham to the war effort is therefore something that clearly deserves to recorded and acknowledged, and this book has achieved this. We thank the Lottery Heritage Fund who kindly funded the project.
The book is available from the Nottingham Black Archive (contact 07775 093 367 or email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Extent: 92 pp
Release Date: Feb 2014