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New South Asian exhibit to open at Burnaby Village Museum

Exhibit highlights stories of Burnaby’s South Asian Canadian communities through the years.

South Asians in Burnaby have a long rich history — but their stories often get tucked away and lost.

The Burnaby Village Museum will be launching a new exhibit, Truths Not Often Told — Being South Asian in Burnaby, on May 6. It will explore the “diverse experiences of Burnaby’s South Asian Canadian communities,” according to a City of Burnaby press release.

In a Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission meeting on April 11, the exhibit’s curator, Jane Lemke, noted that it was a multi-year research project to record and present the diverse experiences of Burnaby’s South Asian Canadian communities that make up the exhibit, which will feature recorded poetry, plays, family photographs, cultural belongings and commissioned art by renowned South Asian visual artist Jag Nagra.

Dr. Anushay Malik, a Simon Fraser University visiting faculty member and co-curator of the exhibit, Malik noted that in the past, South Asians were frequently represented by mainstream media in an “exoticized and caricatured manner.” The exhibit, however, will focus on underrepresented South Asian stories told through counter-storytelling, which "helps us radically rethink the experiences of marginalized people, including how their representation changes the story.

“By flipping the script this way, [we] develop a more holistic understanding of history … so what we have done is we have tried to focus on Burnaby as part of colonial history — the story as part of the British Empire.”

The exhibit will take the public through the stories of the South Asian community in an interactive way, Lemke explained. The exhibit, she said, has been made possible through relationships fostered by community conversations last year about “what it means to be South Asian living in Burnaby.”

“We wanted this exhibit to be felt like the community was represented … that they felt like they were represented through these stories.”

The museum also established a South Asian Canadian advisory committee, made up of several community members, who were instrumental in curating the exhibit, and shared their diverse experiences and knowledge.

Malik believes that the exhibit has been able to represent the diverse languages, cultures and demographics of people hailing from South Asian communities — creating an “inclusive” exhibit of stories.

In addition to the exhibit, which runs from May 6 to Sept. 4, the museum will also hold several programs for the public including henna and rangoli workshops, block batik printing and Kirtan at the Museum during the period.

Burnaby Village Museum summer season

Where: Burnaby Village Museum (6501 Deer Lake Ave.)

When: May 6 to Sept. 4; 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., (Tuesdays to Sundays, including statutory holidays)

Cost: Free admission, carousel rides: $2.65