Exhibition Helps Entrepreneur with Identity

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An exhibition honouring Indian soldiers who received the Victoria Cross in World War One has helped a young Birmingham entrepreneur with her own identity.

Kiran Sahota said curating her first exhibition, which is now on display in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, had been a life changing experience.

“I used to ask, ‘am I Indian or Western?” said the University of Worcester graduate. “But now I realise I’m just me, Kiran. I’ve got my story, just like these soldiers had theirs, and I’m glad to be able to tell their stories. I’ve never felt so comfortable; so empowered.”

The exhibition, entitled Honouring VC Indian Soldiers From World War One, is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and explores the often hidden histories of Indian soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross whilst fighting in the British Indian Army during The Great War.

“In 2014 I read an article about the contribution Indian soldiers made during the First World War,” said Kiran, 31, from Handsworth. “My family are originally from India, and this fusion of east meets west – Indian soldiers in the British Army – really fascinated me. I started doing some research, and unearthed some amazing stories of bravery that didn’t really seem to be being told; hidden histories. I decided I wanted to try and give these brave soldiers a voice, and from there came the idea for the exhibition.”

She applied for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and gathered a team of experts to help piece together the exhibition, which is on display until Saturday, 28th January.

Kiran, who runs a successful community interest company called Believe in Me, delivering sessions for a range of organisations on a number of topics, from domestic violence to mental health, says she was inspired to follow her dreams by her time as a student at the University of Worcester, studying English Literature and American Studies.

“I learnt so much during my time at the University of Worcester,” she said. “Particularly the value of digging deeper, pulling harder on the thread of a thought until you can follow it somewhere really valuable, really interesting.”

“When I dreamt up the exhibition, I wasn’t sure, because I’m not an expert in this field, and some people told me to stick to what I know, but I dug deeper, kept pulling on this thread because it fascinated me, and in the end it was worth it,” she said. “Never in my life did I expect to be the curator of an exhibition like this, but through hard work and determination I’ve been able to fulfil my dream.”

Besides running Believe In Me, and curating her first historical exhibition, Kiran also works as a carer, helping to support her grandfather, who lives with paranoid schizophrenia. In 2012 she was nominated as an Olympic torch bearer for services to charity.