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Diaspora comes from ancient Greek origin meaning the scattering of seeds from the actual tree. In this theme we explore how creativity is affected and influenced by artists from an ethnic Diaspora, from where their forebears or parents travelled to the UK to make a new life. The motivation may have been to escape poverty, war, or just because Britain was 'there' as a coloniser.

Many will be artists of colour whose parents would have received some kind of hostility because of language, cultural or religious differences. These artists growing up would have observed the way in which their parents and the cultures they represented were viewed by British society.

Artists from diasporic backgrounds usually take a perspective of the domestic culture from the position of 'Other'. The outsider looking in, but also having an insider view of their ancestral cultures marginalised by the mainstream.

Recurrent dialogues occur with their own 'communities' as in Rootless Cosmopolitans in which Ruth Novaczeck questions the place of a fixed Jewish identity in the UK. Or Territories, where Isaac Julien contests who actually has rights and can thence move freely in the urban landscape - the police or people of colour.

Some artists like Alia Syed in Fatima's Letter use Urdu in the voice over. This means that she has deliberately taken the brave step to cut out all people who do not understand the language of her ancestors. The subtitling in the film is asynchronous, disrupting the straight translation. Viewers are then forced to confront the '(M)other' tongue in their midst, spoken in their own gallery context. Do they move on? Or do they engage with the powerful imagery instead?

Other artists confront spectators with the images of the problematic areas of their cultures like in Jananne Al Ani's Veil. In this she subverts the temptation to make the veiled women subjects of voyeurism, by alternatively hiding and revealing their gaze which is always direct and fierce.

As British society changes, simultaneously acknowledging that it is irreversibly diverse ethnically, yet wanting to remain a 'Christian' country, it would be interesting to see what the next generation of artists will produce: those who have grown up with multiculturalism, patois, and ethnic food as part of who they are. Will they still see themselves as 'Outsiders'? Will religion be the dividing theme rather than colour?

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Rootless Cosmopolitans

Rootless cosmopolitans

A mother and her wayward daughter, two women on a roof, and a set of wry stories.



Footage of the Notting Hill Carnival is radically interrogated.

Fatima's Letter

Fatima's Letter

The film is shot almost entirely at Whitechapel Underground Station in East London.



The relationship between the viewer/photographer and the veiled woman is one which informs an ongoing body of work by Al-Ani exploring the Western fascination with the image of the veil.

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