In April, the Museum of London announced that it was seeking to collect both objects and first-hand experiences to reflect Londoners’ lives during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today, as part of the wider Collecting COVID project, the Museum of London is pleased to share details of one of the earliest initiatives developed, aiming to reflect how the Muslim community experienced Ramadan during lockdown.
Ramadan this year was from the 23 April to 23 May, at a time when London and the rest of the UK were at the height of lockdown. With restrictions in place such as social distancing and the closure of mosques, communities were unable to celebrate the festival in their usual way.
Londoners therefore adapted and found unique ways to celebrate the festival. The Museum of London was keen to capture this distinctive moment and shift in Ramadan celebrations to ensure future generations of Londoners will be able to learn about and understand this extraordinary period.
The museum has captured this through different strands including collecting an audio recording of the public calls for prayers at the Musallaa an-Noor mosque in Hackney, documenting the experiences of young Muslims in West London and working with seven groups of families or households from various London boroughs.
Aisling Serrant, Community Engagement Manager at the Museum of London Docklands, who is leading on the family strand of the project said: ‘Some of the key parts of Ramadan, such as spending time with family and friends and visiting the mosque, have not been able to take place this year or had to be adapted to virtual or socially distant means. It was important to capture the experiences of families at this time as it was an unprecedented experience for the many Muslims living in London. We are in the process of collecting a range of items ranging from photographs, film and audio recordings and physical objects to tell the stories of these families.’
While the project is ongoing with objects and experiences still being collected, a few reflections from participants have been collated for release now:
Nafisa from Waltham Forest said: ‘Ramadan this year was in some ways strange but in many ways more meaningful, focused and somehow we were more spiritually connected even though we were ‘disconnected’ from the wider community. My main reflections were how there is beauty in everything and pleasure in simple acts, how we can stop and take stock of our friends and family and be grateful always for the peace we live in despite the uncertainty of the world and to continue to pray, do small, consistent good deeds and remember God in good times too.
I hope future generations looking at our experience will ponder and reflect on their own lives, their own relationships and be grateful for the little things and find value in non-material things. That they will see that whatever life throws at them, it is important to find the silver lining. To have hope in the darkest of times and to take resilience, strength and comfort from our stories.’
Iffath from Croydon said: ‘I am an Anaesthetic Nurse and wanted to take part in the Museum of London’s collecting project in order to represent the frontline NHS staff who embraced this challenging Ramadan and allow future generations to learn that fasting in PPE was challenging physically, however, mentally it strengthens your mind and helps you grow as a person. My main reflections of celebrating Ramadan in lockdown were how important it is to slow down in life, absorb the beauty around us, and finally, that there is always so much more we can do for our community’.
The Collecting COVID project is hoping to collect both physical and digital objects, reflecting the voices and experiences of a broad range of Londoners. From those working on the front line to those quietly working in the background, from parents turned home-school support to young people online gaming, the museum wants to collect objects from those that can tell the story of London in lockdown.
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Photo credit: Iffath Hoque