Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre

Partner project

Central Library

International Mother Language Day 2020

The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre is a leading specialist library on race, ethnicity and migration focusing on the experiences of BAME people, including a growing archive. The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust is the associated charitable trust that functions as the outreach arm of the Centre and delivers a wide range of activities and projects. Find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @AIUCentre.

On 21 February 2020, Manchester celebrated International Mother Language Day. There are currently over 200 languages spoken in Manchester and the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre got involved in promoting and highlighting the language and cultural diversity in our city by sharing oral histories from the Kashmiri Lives project.

Around the theme of ‘mother languages’, we shared audio clips from the project that were concerned with language and Kashmiri identity. The interviewees deliberated on issues such as class differences, the importance of language and identity, and discovering their heritage through the Kashmiri dialects, Pahari, Pothwari and Mirpuri.



These oral histories were collected as part of a wider project with Crescent 97fm- a radio and charity organisation based in Rochdale. The project aimed to record, share and preserve the stories of the Kashmiri community across three generations through a collection of oral and video histories.

One participant, Daalat Ali, comments on how pivotal his mother tongue is to his practice and says “I have written films, dramas, novels, short stories. This is my literary journey really. It was an accident but I always, no matter what language I write in, I always think in my mother tongue, Pahari language and this is how I can express my true feelings, the rest is translation.” He also powerfully states that “We are not thick, it is just that we have been taught in another language and we don’t understand that language. If we were taught in our own language we are brilliant. So that encouraged me more to write and campaign for this language.”

On the day of the event, amongst the families partaking in calligraphy and people enjoying cuisines and performances from around the world, conversations were being exchanged in various languages. The event itself was witness to the intersectionality of Manchester’s communities and illustrated how significant languages are in creating community identities.

We also invited members of the public to listen to the audio clips and had conversations around the importance of language and what it means to different people. One attendee said that the event was “Very informative and poignant discussion of language and how individuals and communities use and associate with words.”

For the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre, language is a pivotal part of our organisation. The oral histories that have been transmitted from generation to generation depend on the linguistic ability of communities. Similarly, we rely on language to transmit and preserve these oral histories within our archives for everyone else.

If you are interested in learning more about The Kashmiri Lives project, these memories are now permanently archived for future generations to explore at our centre.

Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre, Central Library