Ugandan Asians celebrate 50th anniversary of arriving in Leicester

By Delta Dobson

Leicester’s Ugandan Asians, who were expelled by the country’s notorious President Idi Amin back in 1972, have held an event to mark the anniversary of their arrival in the city.

More than 27,000 Ugandan Asians arrived in the UK after the president ordered their expulsion from the country in an ethnic cleansing operation.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary a special event was held in Leicester at Sabras Radio, with many members of the community gathering to share their stories.

They were given 90 days to leave Uganda or they would face severe consequences. Several thousand came and settled in Leicester to re-build their lives.  

The anniversary also celebrates the contributions made by Leicester’s Asian community over the last 50 years.

An exhibition is being expected to open in Leicester Museum and Art Gallery this July, after receiving funding from the National Lottery Heritage fund as well as Leicester’s Museum and Art Gallery.  

Councillor Piara Singh Clair said: “Leicester’s Ugandan Asian population have helped forge a unique identity for the city over the last 50 years, and these commemorations will celebrate the huge contribution they have made to the city’s culture.” 

Fulani and Gambian Muslim talks about her culture

By Liv Messum

A Fulani and Gambian Muslim student living in Leicester is looking forward to a favourite part of her traditional Ramadan customs – a ‘trick-or-treat’ style tradition for children.

Mariam Jallow honours her culture by praying regularly and participating in a variety of Islamic events, including honouring the Ramadan month of fasting, which began on Friday(APR1).

Mariam during Eid-Mubarak

Mariam, 22, said: “Islam is a really big religion, and as such its nuances differ by culture and country.

“I’m a Fulani and Gambian Muslim, so we might have different customs than Muslims in the Middle East or in Southeast Asia.

“For example, no-one in my family wears a headscarf or hijab, as it really isn’t Gambian custom to do so, even if 95 per cent of the population is Muslim. 

“We do have headdresses we wear normally but those are part of the cultural, not religious identity.”

During prayers, Mariam, and the women in her family, wear abayas (full-length outer garments), or long wrap skirts with a headscarf. 

As part of her religion, prayer is a very important way to give thanks to their god Allah.

Mariam said: “We’re meant to pray five times a day, but I grew up just doing the prayer (salah) at sunset, and Maghrib (another prayer) with my family every day.”

There are also many Islamic holidays that Mariam and her family enjoy.

She said: “Our major holidays are Eid al-Fitr where we celebrate the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan. We spend the entire month fasting from all food and water from sunrise to sunset. 

“The other holiday is Eid al-Adha, which commemorates the Prophet Abraham.”

Both holidays involve going to the mosque. After that, the cultural practices differ. 

Mariam said: “I know as Gambians we have huge cookouts with our families and communities, and we often stop by family members’ houses to pay well wishes.”

She has been participating in these holidays and events her whole life.

“We also have this thing called “salibo” after Eid al-Fitr, where kids go around the community and basically trick or treat for money,” she said.

In salibo, children go from door to door or around family members and hold their hands out while saying “salibo salibo”, to get money from their elders.

“That was always my favourite part,” she laughed.

Mariam described the celebration as huge and lots of fun, with lots of amazing food, cooked by her and her family.

It is also really important in Muslim culture to give something towards to the poor or less fortunate. 

She said: “I think officially it’s 2.5 per cent of your savings as a Muslim that’s meant to go toward charity (called Zakat), but you’re encouraged to give in other forms if you can’t give away money.

“I think that’s why I’ve always liked Ramadan so much, because it’s a time of reflection and it’s meant to have you empathise with those who aren’t as lucky as you.”

DMU students to travel abroad this summer as volunteers with DMUglobal

By Lara Alsaid

DMUglobal is organising multiple volunteering trips all over the world for DMU students this summer.

Aidan McLean, a First Year Economics and International Relations student, will join DMUglobal for a month in Antigua, a small town in Guatemala, not far from the capital Guatemala City, located in a valley with a tropical climate surrounded by volcanos.

Aidan said: ”I am trying to go there with an open mind, I am excited to try the local food, speak to the local people and learn a good amount of Spanish before and during the trip.”

Aidan doing what he loves the most: Travelling

Aidan found out about the trip through an email he got from DMUglobal and felt intrigued to send off an application.

In Antigua, volunteering students including Aidan will be teaching Guatemalan children the English language.

Hopefully, during their free time, they will be able to go on walks up to the volcanos and explore the capital city.

Apart from a tan, Aidan believes he will gain qualities like a greater appreciation for his support network at home but also an appreciation for different cultures and different ways of living.

He also hopes that he will gain teaching skills and the ability to speak Spanish on a decent level. 

Aidan explained that he is doing a qualification for teaching English as a foreign language and this trip will help him turn it into practice. 

Aidan added:” I wanted to go on this trip to make use of the opportunity with the left-over funding I had.”

Living in a different environment, culture and language for a month can benefit students like Aidan who want to live abroad after their university studies.

“It will be a good experience and will test my ability to adapt to different cultures and situations,” Aidan concluded.  

‘Ugly winter, go away!’ message made by Polish people drowning Marzannas on Spring Equinox in UK

by Maciej Wojcik

A boy watches as a drowned Marzanna floats away

A tradition from Poland of drowning a special doll on the first day of spring was marked at a Leicestershire brook as Britain entered the third week of March.

In Poland, and other Slavic countries, the first day of spring is celebrated in traditional ways.

As winter in Poland sometimes is really cold with temperatures below -25°C, by the third week of March people are really fed up with that season.

They miss spring – fresh, green grass and the first flowers. It was the same thousands of years ago, when the Poles developed a ritual for driving out winter and called on spring to come.

The winter is symbolised by a puppet made of hay and old clothes, named Marzanna. Nowadays, the hay is often replaced by just old clothes.

On the first day of spring, Marzanna needs to be drowned in flowing water (a river, creek or brook), or, if there is ice on the surface, burned and then thrown into the ice.

Initially, the tradition had religious meaning, its origins being in the oldest layers of Slavic beliefs, linked to animism.

Marzanna was not actually a goddess, but a ‘spirit of Winter’.

Nowadays, it is more an element of the culture, although there are some modern paganism believers among Poles, similar to Druids in the UK.

In Poland, it is mainly children who enjoy celebrating Marzanna drowning. Being in another country, however, has not stopped people from celebrating that tradition, especially because children like it.

In Leicestershire, one of the places where Marzannas were drowned yesterday(SUN, MARCH20), which marked the Spring Equinox, was Grace Dieu Priory, near Thringstone, with its priory ruins, a wood and Grace Dieu Brook.

Ela Malogoska, a graduate from De Montfort University (DMU), said: ”I went for that kind of event this year. I have a friend who is a modern paganism believer and he asked me to come.

“I am not very traditional, for me it is rather fun for children. I know that some Polish people are still doing it, even in the UK.”

A police officer refused to comment on the matter officially under their name, but anonymously said: “If there is a religious excuse, I don’t think that anyone will be fined.”

DMU poet tackles nerves and taboo topics

by Kas Ellis

A poet wanted to break taboos on certain subjects with her performance at a student cultural event in Leicester.

Amy Gibbs, a creative writing student at De Montfort University (DMU), spoke at the Undergrad Poetry Hour during Cultural Exchanges with her four poems which could be seen as controversial.

“It’s important to get that out to people,” Amy said. Her poems highlighted issues such as sexual assault, suicide, and self-harm.

Despite the nature of her themes, she said that her poems were well received by the audience, and she enjoyed reading them out despite how daunting she found it.

“You don’t understand how many people are in the room until you stand up,” Amy said.

She was nervous that she was going to freeze up, but said that she looked in the crowd to find familiar faces to read to.

Amy said that, by nature, she was a very closed person but university has helped her become much bolder with her work, and she volunteered to read her poetry in spite of any apprehension.

When asked how she managed to overcome any nerves, she mentioned how important eye contact is, and said that the audience are ‘friends you haven’t gotten to know yet.’

Even though the poems she did perform were not originally the ones she intended to read, due to her original document crashing, she said that it felt good to get the thoughts and feelings off her chest nonetheless.

“It was like a therapy session,” she said.

She believes that the more people talk about the topics she raised, the less taboo they become, and she hopes that she inspired others to let their feelings out in the form of poetry.

Amy said that she would ‘absolutely’ do another speech like this one, and invites others to sign up to similar events in order to experience the cathartic affects it had on her.