4 October 2016

Arrivals

The East Yorkshire village of my childhood was entirely white. We were of Anglo-Saxon or Viking stock apart from an Irish family who lived up High Stile in one of the pebbledash council houses on Trinity Close. The very  idea of a "multicultural society" would have made us frown with sheer puzzlement.

It's a different world nowadays. Our capital city, London, has become an exciting melting pot of cultures and races. Every nation on Earth is represented there but back in the sixties, the vast majority of Londoners were still white Anglo Saxons. In the past fifty years, such multiculturalism has rippled throughout the land so that every one of our cities now has a significant volume of residents whose racial origins lie overseas.

There has been so much movement of people - not just in Europe but across the world. No matter what you might think of this acceleration, we simply cannot turn the clock back. It is how it is and we must all learn to embrace this new reality.
On Sunday I visited a super photographic exhibition in Weston Park Museum. It was called "Arrivals: Making Sheffield Home" by Jeremy Abrahams. There were some fifty enlarged and rather beautiful pictures of people who came to Sheffield from other lands. They were each asked to choose their own picture locations - from anywhere in the city. They chose workplaces, parks, studios, streets or  living rooms and each one of the subjects had had positive things to say about this city and how they had made it their home. It made me feel quite humbled.
In fact I recognised four of the "arrivals". There was Leni, a New York teacher who came here in 1968  and Renata, a Polish activist who arrived as a political refugee in the late eighties. She often pops in the Oxfam shop where I work to check out stock changes or make donations. And there was Annie from Singapore and a West Indian fellow I knew when we lived up at Crookes. His manner of speaking English meant total attention was required to gain any kind of comprehension.
Each one of those photos contained the image of a unique human being. Someone just like you or me. Someone who has had ups and downs in life. Someone who has sought happiness through the years, striving to be the best person they can be and to make the most of the hands that life and circumstance have  dealt them.

If  Jeremy Abrahams had continued with his project - producing a photograph and recording a little story for every one of  Sheffield's half a million citizens, the result would have been an even more amazing and vibrant mosaic that spoke ever more positively for humanity and yet more powerfully against idle racial prejudice.

22 comments:

  1. I do love the way you are always out and about seeing and doing YP..never a bored moment. If only the world were as we would like it to be eh?

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    1. I don't understand your question Libby.

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  2. During my childhood, my hometown already had a large percentage of people who were not German by birth, but who had either come from other countries or whose parents had done so. The majority of these foreigners (it was perfectly OK back then to call them that, as they were not German citizens and did indeed come from foreign countries) were from Turkey, followed closely by Italy, Spain and Greece.
    In my class at elementary school, nearly one half of the children were not speaking German at home. Their dress was sometimes different from what I and the other German kids wore, sometimes they smelled different due to their mothers cooking very different dishes from what we ate at home, and the very new ones struggled with our language for a few months. Most of the time, as a class we had no trouble with each other. If there was trouble, it was the normal trouble kids have with other kids - not because some were Turkish and some weren't. Political correctness did not even yet exist as a term, and we just played more with those kids we liked and less with those we didn't.
    Some of them have stayed in town, others have moved away - just like the German kids did when growing up.
    But it wasn't all utter bliss. I noticed the absence of foreign children when I started "big school" - most of them didn't make it to the school I went to after the first four years. That hurdle has now become less of an obstacle, but it is still there, and a larger number of children with what today is called immigration background still don't make it to university, compared to kids with an all-German background. Well, I never made it to uni, so sometimes it may be just down to the kid not being bothered (like it was in my case), and one can indeed live a happy and good life without having been to uni.

    The exhibition sounds interesting and I like it that you know a few of the people who participated.

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    1. Thank you for these reflections on your early life and how you observed - even embraced - the growth of a new, multicultural Germany.

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  3. We just have to embrace this multicultural society YP don't we? Most of my teaching was done in a very multi cultural inner city comprehensive - and I loved it. We could all learn so much from one another.

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    1. We have no choice - we must embrace it. My South Yorkshire schools (three of them) were almost entirely white English places.

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  4. Hi YP. Just in case you haven't heard the news, ADRIAN is fine - still in the same place in Scotland, but without internet. Sorry - couldn't find an e-mail address for you, so let you know this way!

    Best wishes - - Richard

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    1. Thank you Richard. When he finally does blog again, he'll have such a massive reservoir of material to tap into. So much mould, so many flies.

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  5. Globalization has meant people can move. People have skills that can be used in other areas. Colonization attracted people. There all kinds of reasons why people come. You have self confidence so you don't look negatively at people. We are better of with what different people contribute .

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    1. I guess you have always had a different attitude to the movement of people Red as your forebears must have been amongst the many Europeans who first spread out across Canada.

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    2. Your suspicion is right. My Mother's parents came from England and my father's German parents came from the Ukraine.

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  6. Photographers can do much, not only to open peoples eyes but also to open their minds.

    Listening to people with heavy accents is a challenge and it's easier to criticise them than to listen carefully and work through the conversation.

    Alphie

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    1. They say that a picture says a thousand words. Take that famous photo of Kim Phuc in Vietnam. Still speaking powerfully to us to this day.

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  7. What a great project! I'd love to see that exhibit. Maybe I need to get myself to Sheffield. Or maybe it's online somewhere?

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    1. Steve - I hunted around and found this:-
      http://www.jeremyabrahams.co.uk/arrivals

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  8. I agree with you and Steve - a great project. But not for much longer if the Brexiteers have their way.

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    1. Even King Canute could not turn the tide back.

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  9. Great exibition. Also I live in a multi cultural area, these photos would perfectly fit into this region here, too.

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    1. With your South Pacific heritage you have also contributed to the multicultural mosaic that is your home area.

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  10. My words were a bit clumsy.

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  11. I apologise for not finding this post until now...I'm running late and missed the bus, it would appear!

    Back in the Fifties, when I was a kid growing up in Gympie, from memory, there were a couple of Greek families, a Chinese family, one Dutch family, only one or two part-Aboriginal families...a few Poms...who made up our multi-cultural society! :)

    The Greek families, as was the way then, ran a couple of cafes, a wonderful fruit and vegetable store was in the mix, and, also a couple of fish & chip shops; and the Chinese family, the Choys, had a little mixed business of sorts...one in which they sold fruit, vegies, milk shakes, malted milks, orange juice...things like that...and the best of all...they roasted and boiled their own peanuts! To this day I still roast and boil my own peanuts. And when I had my greengrocery-healthfood shop in Noosa, because of Choys, I used to also boil and roast peanuts for sale to the hungry hordes!

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