Re-soundings: Prelude – The Ayahs Home

Single-channel video with stereo composed sound; archive materials; digital prints 

The Ayahs Home in Hackney, East London was part refuge and part employment agency for Indian female migrant domestic workers or ‘ayahs’ who looked after British children on the long sea crossing home from occupied India.  Often their employment was terminated when they reached British shores and the Ayahs Home, operated by the London City Mission between 1900 and 1937 offered sanctuary and the possibility of finding a return passage home.

1 inside ayahs home round the table 1900 from BL website

Starting from an old photograph which shows an early twentieth century European drawing room populated by around fifteen Indian women thoughtfully and quietly engaged in reading or sewing, Re-soundings: Prelude – The Ayahs Home uses still images and composed sound drawn from archival records, images, text and interviews to investigate both the history of the ayahs in London and some of the mechanisms by which they, and their stories, have been muted.

How can the muted be voiced? How can the unheard be listened to? How do memories get lost? Do they just fall through the cracks as stories are told and retold, each time missing out what is not considered important according to those who have the power to record and tell the stories and shape our ideas of our pasts and our histories?

Watch extracts of Re-soundings: Prelude – The Ayahs Home

Extract 1

Extract 2

Extract 3

Extract 4

‘Unknown Memories of India’ in The Indian Express

Stories about The Ayahs Home Hackney in Business Standard, Mumbai