The stunning images of Birmingham’s migrant communities and their real stories

The Godfather of Black British history, Vanley Burke, has created an amazing collection of photos celebrating the people who moved to Birmingham from overseas

So many migrants from across the world have helped to shape Birmingham to make it the brilliant city it is today.

Now the contribution migrants have made to the city is being celebrated in an iconic exhibition with the Godfather of Black British history, Vanley Burke.

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BirminghamWorld has been given an amazing insight into the free exhibition - A Gift to Birmingham which is at the Ikon Gallery until 3 April.

Each image tells a story of migration, either recent or long past. There are 17 portraits of Migrant Voice, a migrant-led national organisation with a hub in Birmingham.

Displayed together, the photographs present a portrait of Birmingham as a super diverse city, with residents from many parts of the world.

For Vanley Burke, it was important to portray participants in their natural environments, including their homes, community centres and parks, across the inner-city, with subjects accompanied or alone.

The exhibition tours to Saathi House, Aston and everyone photographed by Burke will receive a printed copy.

What have the migrants said about the exhibition?

Before being photographed each participant was interviewed, by researchers from the School of Education, University of Birmingham, on their experience of living and working in Birmingham.

The discussions included both positive experiences, of the city’s resources and infrastructure, and more challenging aspects such as the limited interaction between migrant and host communities, as well as the need to shift attention from children’s academic attainment towards greater cultural understanding in schools.

Here is a selection of the comments:

“The best thing about living in Birmingham is that you can access anything, including transport, education and libraries.”

“Migrants create their own neighbourhoods, while the host communities ‘migrate’ to other parts of the city.”

“If a child doesn’t understand why someone is wearing a hijab, have a discussion about it.

“Don’t tell them they can’t ask.”

Salman Mirza, Birmingham Network Worker, Migrant Voice added: “I moved from Luton to Brum to seek a better life, some people just take a longer route to get to the same destination, there is more that unites us than divides us.”

Through these interviews, photographic documentation, exhibition co-curation and the creation of school resources, this six-month collaborative research project has considered the role of artists, educators and activists in challenging assumptions about migration and breaking down institutional and intercommunal barriers. Some of the material will be distributed to schools.

One final thing to note…

A Gift to Birmingham was commissioned as part of the ‘Non-formal Intercommunal Education in Birmingham (NICE-B)’ project, led by Dr Reza Gholami.

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