East to West

The History of
Ugandan Asians

The Knitted Panel

Uprooted 50 Years Ago

– Exhibition –

1.      Map of Uganda to illustrate the departure from homeland 1A. Road transitioning from red to grey indicates journey from Uganda to UK
2.      Sugar plantations 3.      Crested Crane, the national bird of Uganda
4.      Ugandan flower - Heliconia Metallica 5.      Indian flag and train track-many men were brought from India, by the British, to build the Ugandan railways
6.      Market stalls with local produce 7.      Ladies carry pots on their heads
8.      Bicycle bearing bananas 9.      Ugandan house
10.  Ugandan school 11.  Military guards en route to airport makes life so difficult
12.  Lakes and fishing boats 13.  Safari Park
14.  Ugandan fabric shop 15.  Tea plantations
16.  Black Mercedes driven by Idi Amin 17.  Native huts
18.  Only £50 cash permitted for each person. Jewellery and gold often hidden in ladies’ petticoats 19.  Banana plantation
20.  Idi Amin allows only 90 days for all Asians to leave Uganda 21.  Native drums
22.  Barracks used to house people fleeing to UK 23.  Bundled into coaches on arrival in UK
24.  BOAC Aeroplane used for journey to UK 25.  Cooking utensils, primus stove brought to UK
26.  Only 1 suitcase was permitted, BOAC Bag, British Passport 27.  Red Cross and other charities were amazing with their generosity
28.  Children unable to speak English when going to new schools in UK 29.  Terraced houses, UK
30.  Illustrates of racism - a brick thrown through a window 31.  Cold and wet British weather was difficult to endure
32.  Thatched cottage 33.  Many followed professional careers as years went by
34.  Map of UK to indicate the arrival in a new country 35.  Corner Shops set up and run by Asian families
36.  Fish and chips illustrate strange British food 37.  British National flowers – Rose, Shamrock, Thistle, and Daffodil

Late in the autumn of 2021 we became aware that an exhibition to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the expulsion of the Asian community from Uganda was in the planning stage for the summer of 2022.

We are a group of twelve ‘ladies that knit’, from many different walks of life, who have enjoyed working together to create knitted representations of the area close to our homes. We enjoy the collaborative process of research, discussion and design leading to the creation of a pictorial record. Our previous work comprises a mural to depict our local town of Newbury (which is on display at the West Berkshire Museum, Newbury) and a knitted triptych to tell the history of Greenham Common (now hanging in the Control Tower visitor centre on Greenham Common).

Our group was delighted to be invited to contribute a piece to mark this anniversary. This is a major part of the Newbury history, and we were all touched by the information provided to us by Pragna Hay and used this as a basis for our research. We wanted to play a part in remembering the suffering of those expelled from Uganda during Idi Amin’s dictatorship and to pay tribute to the courage and tenacity of those that found refuge in our country.

The aim was to depict life in Uganda, the trauma of the expulsion, and the need to adjust to life in a foreign country. To capture this sense of movement from one country to another with a very different climate and culture we employed the use of a road leading from a map of Uganda in the top left to a map of the UK in the bottom right. Halfway down the mural, behind the plane, the road changes colour. The dusty sandy road at the top is surrounded by knitted representations of life in Uganda and as the halfway point is approached our knitted items depict the frightening reality of the expulsion. The grey tarmac road is surrounded by knitted imagery of life in the UK: the welcome the refugees received (most good but some bad); the adjustments that had to be made, the need to learn a new language, different food, how to deal with a much colder climate, and the success that many have achieved in their new homeland.

We held meetings at roughly 3 weekly intervals to check on progress and plan the layout following completion of knitted items. One member took on the responsibility of knitting and sewing together the squares for the background: a mammoth task but without which there just wouldn’t be a mural! We knitted and crocheted, at leisure in our own homes, coming together every 3 weeks or so to plan the layout and discuss our progress. Once most of the items had been completed, we met more regularly for the time-consuming task of sewing everything into place, and now, five months later, we can proudly present our mural for all to enjoy. We truly hope this proves to be the case!

The Greenham Knitters

June 2022

Brenda Agutter, Fien Button, Hazel Firth, Rosemarie Franklin, Maria Grace, Lesley Hawker, Susan Howell, Jan Lidgley, Liz Meldrum, Julia Nicholl, Louise Rand, Alex Sankey, Doreen Scott, Maddy Winter.