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British-Pakistani exhibition moves to Ashton Library after successful run in Market Hall

Following a five-month run at Ashton Indoor Market, Modus Arts’ Tape Letters Exhibition is opening in Ashton Library on 20th July as part of South Asian Heritage Month.

The exhibit will platform the cassettes and stories from Ashton’s British-Pakistani community.  

Tape Letters is an oral history project that highlights the little-known cultural practice within the British-Pakistani community of recording and sending voice messages on cassette tape between the 1960s-1980s. Director of Modus Arts, Wajid Yaseen grew up in Ashton, and discovered the tapes when searching for his father’s cassettes. 

Drawing directly both from first-hand interviews and from the informal and intimate conversations on the cassettes themselves, the project seeks to unearth, archive and re/present a portrait of this method of communication, as practised mainly by Pothwari-speaking members of the British-Pakistani community, commenting on their experiences of migration and identity, the unorthodox use of cassette tape technology, and language.

Modus Arts have produced multiple project outputs, including in-person exhibitions, a WebXR exhibition, a film, a photography series, a radio series, written publications, and a set of learning resources. The surviving cassettes are stored in the BishopsGate Institute, London. 

Wajid Yaseen, Director of Modus Arts, said: “The labels and inner sleeves of these cassettes were different from the pre-recorded music tapes that we were familiar with as kids - they instead had the names of relatives scribbled in either English or Urdu. Re-discovering them in the family home triggered childhood memories of when I’d be cajoled into recording messages to distant relatives in Pakistan, and it dawned on me that these cassettes would be sonographic snapshots of time, revealing the migratory experiences of my immediate family and a heritage that I previously didn’t have access to.”

Ashton Library is located in Tameside One, Market Place, Ashton, and opening times can be found on https://www.tameside.gov.uk/libraries/openingtimes

Tape Letters will run from 20th July - November 2024.

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