The power of social networks is infinite. Beyond the possibility for everyone to assert their positions or share their stories, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and all other digital tools offer us the possibility to travel through time or space, and open up a world of knowledge accessible to all. Sadiya Ahmed, Ayesha Saldanha, and Basil Al-Rawi have understood this and have been able to transform social networks into a digital environment where personal stories, historical photos and many other treasures that previous generations did not have the chance to share are blended together.
A way to revive the Muslim spirit, an actor in the construction of Great Britain
Finding old photos of her parents in their youth, Sadiya Ahmed embarked on a crazy project: to bring back to life the stories and dreams behind Polaroid photos in order to highlight the Muslim heritage still rather absent from the history of Great Britain.
From this simple idea was born Everyday Muslim, a website and its social networks to pass on to the next generation both the Muslim experience in Britain and the documentation of the stories of the previous generation. In this way, while these archives share the diverse narratives of Muslim communities, they also highlight the pivotal role they have been able to play in building Britain.
In discussing her project with other diaspora communities, the founder soon realised that she was not alone in wanting to revive the Muslim spirit within the Anglo-Saxon community. From 2014 onwards, the project has therefore grown to extend well beyond photos. From oral histories to personal stories, the project has rapidly become the basis of community interaction and the Instagram account is now attracting a significant level of engagement, particularly from second and third generation communities in the diaspora.
For Sadiya Ahmed, “Instagram is a place that allows people to share small amounts of information without feeling intimidated or displaced“. “Social networks have opened up a world of knowledge to all, a world of knowledge that would otherwise have been accessible only to a few, such as academics or the privileged in cultural spaces where Arab, South Asian or other communities were historically not or very poorly represented”.
An opportunity to revive the Asian community in the Gulf
Ayesha Saldanha used the same means of sharing, but she wanted to highlight another subject: the personal stories of the South Asians of the Gulf and the Khaleejis of South Asia.
“I think Instagram is a great way for individuals to share their own stories, with small details that cannot be found in press articles or academic papers. It is these details that touch us and help us connect with the experiences of others,” she says.
Thus, through the Instagram On Gulf ⇄ South Asia account, Ayesha Saldanha’s project has managed to resonate to give the younger generation the opportunity to pass on their forefathers’ stories themselves, “stories that have never received much attention before”.
Supporting the memory of Iraqi life in the 80s’.
From a photo from the university years, to images of a 1978 wedding, the Instagram Iraq Photo Archive is full of memories and allows everyone to travel through the ages to discover memories of Iraqi daily life in the 1980s.
For its Irish-Iraqi founder Basil Al-Rawi, the idea of the Iraq Photo Archive was born out of a practice-based doctoral research project using archival photographs and films as a starting point to create an immersive work of art re-articulating memories of the Iraqi diaspora.
Now, this concrete project serves a very specific purpose: to document and acculturate a wider public on the daily life of Iraqis through a large number of digital archives or personal oral narratives.
By going through a digital environment, and especially the Instagram platform, Basil Al-Rawi is convinced of one thing: to generate a wider audience and reach out to a public of multiple origins in order to establish an interesting intergenerational dialogue.
The reasons for continuing the development of this project could also apply to Saldanha and Ahmed because, according to him, Instagram is “a platform for people like me, who have a burning desire and desire to connect with a culture from which they have been disconnected”.