Unique exhibition capturing role of Indian and Chinese New Zealanders in WW1

First of its kind exhibition captures stories of marginalised communities contributing to the war effort despite sometimes intense and open racism

At the launch of Lest We Forget: The Other exhibition. L-R: Amit Vasan from Wellington Indian Association, Manisha Morar from the NZICA and one of the curators of the exhibition, Priyanca Radhakrishnan (Member of Parliament) and Manjit Grewal of Ekta NZ Inc. – Photo / Supplied

In a first of its kind exhibition, New Zealanders will get an up close look at the role of Indian and Chinese New Zealanders in World War One (WW1).

These are not merely stories of individuals and their military services, but also stories of marginalised communities contributing to the war effort despite sometimes intense and open racism.

The exhibition ‘Lest We Forget: The Other’ tells these stories which are as diverse as the soldiers themselves. It will run at the Dominion Museum building in Wellington until 25 March 2018.

“This is the first time also that the two largest Asian communities have come together to showcase part of their shared history and something of national significance,” Manjit Grewal told Asia Samachar in an email.

Manjit is a member of Ekta NZ, one of the promoters of the event, along with New Zealand Indian Central Association (Inc) and New Zealand Chinese Association.

He said this was the first time that such an exhibition of the Chinese and Indian Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) is being held in New Zealand by any museum.

“Notwithstanding that it is a hundred years after the war, it is a big first step for the two communities as the contribution of these soldiers has largely been forgotten thus far,” he said.

The event was launched at the Great War Memorial, Pukeahu War Memorial in Mount Cook, Wellington on Nov 24.

In a statement at the  The Great War Exhibition website, exhibition manager Ian Wards said: “It was a colorful and vibrant evening with thought-provoking speeches – a good tribute to the NZ-Chinese and NZ-Indian soldiers who fought in the First World War.”

The exhibition follows an earlier exhibition on Sikh soldiers in World Wars I & II and the Battle of Saragarhi – curated by Malaysian researcher Harchand Singh Bedi.

The ‘Honour & Duty: A Tribute to Sikh Valour’ photo exhibition displayed a large number of photographs, with a good number of the collection coming from he archives of the Imperial War Museum in Elephant and Castle, London.

If all works out, the organisers hope to take the exhibits to other parts of the country both to create awareness and to get these soldiers also their due recognition so that they can also be included in the annals of NZ history.

The launch was attended by some 70 Indian, Chinese community leaders, MPs, councillors and members of the diplomatic corp.


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