Asian Women & Cars: Road to Independence celebrates the lives and experiences of first generation South Asian migrant women living in Sandwell and the Black Country. Using oral histories, film, photographs and sound, Dawinder Bansal explores the relationships between the women, driving and their cars. The project was presented as a multimedia installation for the Blast! Festival 2019, in a specially designed space in an annex of The Muslim School in West Bromwich. The work highlights the positive impact of these stories on future generations of British Asian women who now benefit from the sacrifices of the first generation who battled against patriarchy and traditional family structures to gain independence.
This is the first time a project like this has ever been done in the UK. It’s a personal journey with inspiring older women who are often invisible pioneers in the South Asian community. I developed the idea after speaking with my aunt about her motivations to learn to drive. It enabled her to work three jobs while raising a family. A very personal conversation with my mother revealed her unfulfilled dreams of wanting to drive and why she pushed me to get my licence. This film and exhibition is a tribute to the women who paved the way for women like me to have the independence we have today.
Winner of the Women of Achievement Awards 2017, Dawinder Bansal is a producer and artist whose performances and visual art installations are informed by cultural heritage and contemporary stories. Her production ‘Mother Tongues from Father Lands’ was a finalist in ITV’s Asian Media Awards. Recent work includes ‘Jambo Cinema’ and ‘The Making of a South Asian Wedding’. Previous projects include theatre productions for Centro Cultural Banco Do Brasil (Brazil), BBC, Channel 4, Cast in Doncaster and producing Southbank Centre’s South Asian Alchemy Festival for the Black Country region.
As part of the Festival programme, Dawinder Bansal hosted a panel discussion with Anita Goyal, Bharulata Patel-Kamble and Jagdish Khaira, exploring each woman’s passion for driving and influencing social change for South Asian women in the UK and India.
· Anita Goyal, the CEO and Trustee of the Hemraj Goyal Foundation and a Patron of BINTI International and Honorary Chair of the FGM Appeal for Barnardo’s in the UK. In April 2019, Anita joined Manjit Gill, BINTI CEO, on a rally around India, distributing menstrual products and educating young girls about periods.
· Bharulata Patel-Kamble, the first woman in the world to drive solo through the Arctic Circle and 32 countries combined and the first Indian women to hoist the flag of India in the Arctic Circle.
· Jagdish Khaira has been a pharmacist for 40 years and has been based in West Bromwich for 30 years. She enjoys her role serving the local and wider community and has been driving a car since the late 1970s.
Special thanks to all of the women who shared their stories for the creation of the exhibition.