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South Asian Diaspora Literature and Arts Archive

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The South Asian Diaspora Literature and Arts Archive (SALIDAA) was founded in 1999 by a group of concerned academics, experts and practitioners of South Asian literature and arts in response to a widespread and growing concern that the contribution of the South Asian community to literature and arts in Britain was disappearing and becoming inaccessible primarily as a result of lack of resources.

The body of works by South Asian Diaspora writers and artists in Britain has grown in volume in the last few decades, but to date there is no provision for an institution dedicated to gather, preserve and make this material accessible. In 1999 SALIDAA commissioned a feasibility report to identify the range and type of holdings, the volume and condition of materials and the level of interest in such an archive.

A flyer for 'Across The Black Waters' a Mán Melá Theatre Company production, 1998

The digital archive

In June 2001 SALIDAA was successful in obtaining a grant of £266,000 over three years from the New Opportunities Fund (NOF), a Lottery distributor, as part of a nationwide digitisation programme, which aimed to bring together the community and voluntary sectors, libraries, archives and museums, as well as further and higher education institutions. SALIDAA's digitisation project consisted of the creation of a digital archive of South Asian Diaspora literature and arts material, and is the first stage towards the long term creation of a physical archive.

The SALIDAA digital archive covers five subject areas: literature, visual arts, theatre, dance and music. It features a wide variety of text-based and visual material such as excerpts of fiction, poetry and plays, manuscripts and writers' notes, art works, photographs, leaflets, programmes of events, stage and costume drawings of theatre and dance performances, lyrics, CD and record covers, and music scores relating to the substantial body of work produced by South Asian writers, artists, performers and musicians in England from 1947 to the present. All material is in English, but as a future development SALIDAA plans to add material in South Asian languages as well as audio-visuals, and to extend its coverage to include films. We will also aim to cover the rest of Britain and collect material which pre-dates 1947.

A photograph taken by Shelia Burnett during Rukhsana Ahmad's 'River On Fire' production, 2001

Although the archive does not constitute a comprehensive reflection of contemporary South Asian literature and arts in England, many of the individuals and organisations featured have played an important role in the development of the art forms covered in the archive. These include, for example, the many writers who belonged to the now defunct Asian Women Writers Collective, established theatre companies such as Tara Arts and Kali Theatre, dance companies like Pushpalata, musicians such as internationally renown Najma Akhtar and punk world music label Nation Records, as well as visual artists such as the late Pakistani photographer Samena Rana and painter Amal Ghosh. The digital archive currently has 25 collections, these are:

A full length pleated costume with a Mogul-style collar and full length sleeves worn by Ram Gopal in his Kathak dance performances


Adopting labels and short-hand terminology to reflect a much more complex reality is always problematic, and SALIDAA is aware that, at times, terms such as "South Asian Diaspora" are not entirely satisfactory. However, for the purpose of establishing some reference points for the organisation of a physical and digital archive, the following terminology has been adopted: South Asia refers to the Indian subcontinent, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka; Diaspora is used in its wider meaning of "dispersion or spreading, as of people originally belonging to one nation or having a common culture" (Oxford English Dictionary); South Asian Diaspora indicates all those people of South Asian background born in Britain or South Asia, who are resident in Britain or, if no longer resident, who have spent a considerable amount of their life in Britain. People of South Asian background who were born in a country other than Britain or the Subcontinent but live or have lived in Britain are also included, such as those of South Asian origin from Africa and the Caribbean.

Contact Details

Address: Vandana Patel
Collections Coordinator
c/o Stakeholder Forum
7 Holyrood Street
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 207 357 6527
Fax: +44 (0) 207 357 6527

SALIDAA is a registered charity, No 1081584.


The information within and all images that appear may be used for educational purposes only. They may not be copied, altered or amended for any other purpose, without prior permission of the copyright holder(s).

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