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Press release

  • 11 December 2008

Children’s art reveals new views about “home”

Children explore home and away through art for London

'Children explore 'home and away' through art for London exhibition.

What makes a place a home? Why do we think of other places as away?These were questions that University of Sussex anthropologists put to a group of British Bangladeshi children. The surprising results, expressed through artwork and diaries, will form an exhibition, entitled 'Home and Away,' at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London in the new year.

Drs Katy Gardner and Kanwal Mand worked with 75 Year Five children in two East London schools who regularly visit family relatives in Bangladesh. The researchers were expecting to find that the children viewed their South Asian roots as different to their British home, but in fact, the children, mostly born in the UK, regarded both locations as "home" - and both as "away".

Dr Mand says: "We used art activities in order to discover how children thought about different places. One of the tasks was to create a globe decorated with textiles to show the things they associated with the ideas of home and away. But it became clear that the children don't see a difference. Their connections with Sylhet, the place in Bangladesh where their relatives lived, were as strong as their ties to here. What we didn't realise is that the spiritual journey is so important to these children."

The exhibition, which opens at the V&A Museum of Childhood on 10 January 2009 and runs until 29 March, will be the first of its kind to explore the views of British Bangladeshi children born in the UK.

Dr Gardner says: "This is one of the first studies of transnational migration that focuses on children rather adults. It has brought new insight into how communities and families in Britain and Bangladesh are linked to each other, as well as how these relationships change over time. What is also exciting is that we worked largely through arts-based methods, such as model making, painting and storytelling, which made it a lot of fun."

As well as artwork made by the children at Bonner Primary School and Shapla Primary School, both in Tower Hamlets, the exhibition will include a mural by internationally renowned graffiti artist Muhammed Ali.

The study was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research council as part of its £5.5 million pound research programme 'Diaspora, Migration and Identities'. A study aimed at furthering our historical and cultural knowledge about diasporas and migratory communities.

Other artists involved with the project were Amanda Benson and Joe Ramm.

Notes for editors

  • For more information, contact the University of Sussex Press Office, Jacqui Bealing and Maggie Clune, Tel: 01273 678888, email:
  • V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9PA. Admission free. Nearest tube: Bethnal Green. Open daily 10.00 - 17.45, last admission 17.30. Switchboard: 020 8983 5200.
  • Arts & Humanities Research Council: Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,000 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. Arts and humanities researchers constitute nearly a quarter of all research-active staff in the higher education sector. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.
  • 'Diasporas, Migration and Identities' is an AHRC funded five year £5.5 million trans-disciplinary research programme.  It was launched in response to the need for a multi faceted insight into the culture of diaspora and migratory communities. The programme presents the opportunity to bring together research on traditions, languages, religions, material culture, visual and performing arts.   The challenge for this research programme is two-fold: to further our historical and cultural knowledge about diasproas and migratory communities, and to break new ground in how we study, theorise and model them.  The aims of this five year programme are to research, discuss and creatively share knowledge related to the impact on identity, culture, the imagination, place, emotion, politics and our human tendency to assemble into communities. In order to stimulate the wide participation and contribution of arts and humanities scholars, several different schemes were created to fund research projects, workshops, networks, conferences and seminars. Interdisciplinary engagement and collaborative work with partners in the public sector, the cultural sector and the wider community were also important elements.  The programme is led by Professor Kim Knott, based at University of Leeds.



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