2022-2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the expulsion of Asian communities from Uganda by Idi Amin in 1972. Though an event that led to such incredible violence, forced displacement, and uncertainty, this anniversary also reminds us of how much this community has provided to modern British society.
From building the Kenya-Uganda railway (popularly known as the Lunatic Line) in the late 19th century to departing on train journeys across East Africa and later Britain to start their new lives in 1972-3, this community has a long and complex relationship with the British railway industry (find out more in an earlier blog, Beyond the Lunatic Line, by Dr Sophie Vohra and William Law).
In line with the anniversary, the British Ugandan Asians at 50 group, led by Lata Desai, created a travelling exhibition that is currently touring venues across Britain from July 2022–September 2023 (find out more about the venues). Their exhibition is being hosted by the National Railway Museum in our Search Engine library and archive centre, from 12 January to 25 March 2023. Search Engine is open Thursday–Saturday, to find out more head to our website’s Plan a Research Visit page.
The exhibition comprises 10 banners and a film of a sample of oral history interviews that feature stories of the expulsion and the railways. The banners showcase the history of the expulsion and resettlement, and the legacy of the Ugandan Asian communities in Britain. They include recollections, personal photographs, and images capturing the expulsion by Mohammed Amin and Andrew Denny.
‘British Ugandan Asians at 50’ is centrally an NLHF-funded oral history project led by Mr Praful R C Patel, Chair of the India Overseas Trust and the sole surviving member of the British Government Uganda Resettlement Board. The filmed interviews with volunteers and expellees from three of the resettlement camps capture the recollections of British nationals who volunteered, in many different ways, to assist with the reception of Ugandan Asians during the crucial early months after their arrival in late 1972 (all of the filmed interviews can be found on their YouTube channel).
The story of the Ugandan Asian expulsion, the resettlement of a large proportion of this community in Britain, and how their lives have intersected with the British railway industry will feature in the National Railway Museum’s revitalised and reimagined Station Hall due to reopen in late 2024.