Steve Dooley (l), SFU Surrey campus executive director, Amrik Virk, minister of technology, innovation and citizen services, and Steven Purewal (r), managing director of the Indus Media Foundation, view the foundation's Duty, Honor and Izzat exhibit during the funding announcement at the Surrey campus.


Tools for learning South Asian heritage focus of funding

November 29, 2016

An interactive heritage exhibit commemorating the Indian army’s First World War contributions—on display at SFU’s Surrey campus—created the backdrop for a funding announcement that will help increase opportunities for B.C. student to learn about South Asian heritage.

A one-time grant of $248,500, announced by Peter Fassbender, minister of community, sport and cultural development, will enable the Indus Media Foundation to share and create heritage displays and learning tools at schools. SFU has been a supporter of the project from its start, hosting 'Duty, Honour and Izzat : the Call to Flanders Fields', created by foundation managing director and curator Steven Purewal, in 2014.

“As an engaged university, we are pleased to support, honour and promote community initiatives that reflect our values and goals,” says Steve Dooley, executive director of SFU’s Surrey campus.

Dooley first met Purewal and viewed his “amazing artifact collection” two years ago before the project took shape. SFU supported the Surrey historian as he developed the initial exhibit. The University has since hosted related events and organized teacher workshops and community lectures in both Vancouver and Surrey.

“Within a common heritage under the Crown, there are many inspirational stories of diverse peoples coming together in solidarity,” says Purewal. “Within the frame of the First World War, the protagonists were often Punjabis; 500,000 fought, over 9,000 gallantry awards were won. These lost tales underscore the ties that bind – they can also inform a shared future.”

SFU’s history department has also supported Purewal’s efforts to develop and share his exhibit. “SFU has been demonstrably committed to bridging the gap between campus and community,” says SFU history professor Bidisha Ray. “The World War I exhibit is a wonderful example of such enduring collaborations.

“Students and the general public viewing this rich, historical display will learn about the long roots of South Asians, particularly the Punjabis’ impact on the entire edifice of British imperialism. They can see how much Britain’s great and fearsome empire depended on the loyalty, on the labour of these soldiers. And they will see that their immediate world isn't a distant, disconnected world built by European hands, but a product of the blood and sweat of many brave people, some of whom may very well be their own direct ancestors.” 

Ray says such exhibitions help not just in furthering knowledge but in “opening up hearts and minds to the transformative notion of universal brotherhood.”

South Asian communities’ contributions to B.C. are part of British Columbia’s new K-12 curriculum, which the government expects to fully implement by the 2018-19 school year.

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