Bangladeshi Fan

This fan belonged to a large family in Somers Town. A nostalgic emblem of home, it was decorative and may have been used at weddings.

Its owner came to England aged 12, in the 1970s with her family, in the wave of refugees in the aftermath of the War of Independence, an armed conflict between West Pakistan and East Pakistan that lasted for roughly nine months in 1971. The war resulted in Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan.

Its owner spoke little English and struggled at first with customs, enduring taunts at school and racism at home – ‘we had eggs thrown at the door’. Her parents, though educated, worked in restaurants and in cleaning jobs, and sometimes clashed with their children’s alienation from their roots. News of home, sent on audio cassette tapes recorded by grandparents, was a poignant reminder of the distance of family and rural life in a village in Sylhet (one of Bangladesh’s seven divisions located in North Eastern Bangladesh).

Her siblings, younger than her, more easily adapted to English life, had more confidence, and one took part in the protests around the Bengali Rent Strike at Camden Town Hall.

By Diana Foster