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Thursday, July 25, 2024

British-Bangladeshi mother who lost her son is featured in historical new book and exhibition about Covid-19 pandemic

A British-Bangladeshi mother, Hasina Momtaz, is featured in a unique new book and exhibition, launched Thursday 4 July, London, on the particular impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the British-Bangladeshi community.

Hasina is an entrepreneur and former media adviser to Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson during their tenure as Mayor of London. She lost her only child, her son, Sami Ahmed, in 2014 and launched a faith inspired jewellery brand, Soul Gems London, in his memory during the height of the lockdown in May 2020. She launched it with the aim of trying to connect communities through the messages of hope and healing engraved onto stunning pieces of jewellery.

Her aim was to try to connect with communities and help loved ones to stay connected with each other during the lockdown by sending her jewellery as tokens of love and remembrance, whilst the world was in the depths of separation and isolation.

Covid Exhibition and Book. Image: Hasina Momtaz

In the book by Ripon Ray, called ‘Untold Covid Stories’, Hasina speaks about her experience of getting Covid and the despair this left her in, the difficult decision to launch her brand during a lockdown and the profound impact of losing her son, Sami, in a road traffic collision.

Hasina Momtaz said: “It is an honour to be included in this important book and exhibition. Both are a historical record of the struggle and strength of the British-Bangladeshi community during a time of profound loss and anxiety. During the initial throes of the pandemic, when the world was shrouded in isolation, the messages of hope inscribed on my jewellery pieces became a beacon of connection, allowing people to send tokens of love and remembrance to their dear ones, many of whom had lost loved ones to the pandemic, just as I had lost my son some years earlier.”

According to the British Government’s data, Bangladeshi’s had the highest vaccination uptake in London compared to other ethnic groups. This book and exhibition is a great way to learn about this community, not only as a group that needs to be ‘helped’ but also as a community that pulled through as a collective regardless of initial support from the state.

Writer and publisher, Ripon Ray said: “The book launch and exhibition celebrates a fragile community’s resilience, collectiveness, and solidarity during an unprecedented time of uncertainty, through visual means. This work is about how the Bengali community in London pulled through, regardless of structural inequality, to show their strength. The unique book and exhibition is the visual representation of their response.”

Alastair Owens, Professor of Historical Geography, Queen Mary University of London, said: “This critical text is a major achievement as there are very few studies of the pandemic that focus in such depth on particular minority communities in the UK.”

Dr Chris Tang, King’s College London said: “Highlighting the dynamic response of the British Bangladeshi community during the devastating Covid crisis, the book reveals a unique insight into a marginalised community during a crisis. Testimonies of the local community and beyond, collection of lived experiences during an unprecedented global pandemic. A space where marginalised and often vulnerable people’s voices are given a platform. The Brit Bangla Covid Platform is an excellent and fascinating example of community-wide mediation “

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