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What is Colourful Heritage?

The Colourful Heritage project is Scotland’s first community heritage focussed charitable initiative that aims to preserve and celebrate the contributions of South Asians and Muslims to Scotland.

It consists of nearly 70 oral stories captured as short films creating the largest online video archive of first-hand accounts. The video footage enables viewers to see their facial expressions, feel their emotions and hear the voices of these great men and women relieving their experiences. The video stories are from people from all walks of life, in a variety of different languages (Urdu, Punjabi & mainly English) covering Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. The stories have explored themes around migration, entrepreneurship, family life, identity and role of religion.

In addition, Colourful Heritage in partnership with Glasgow Life have created a dedicated archive and exhibition celebrating South Asian and Muslim achievements.

Over the past 7 years Colourful Heritage has achieved the following:

  • Over 70 video stories accessible online at colourfulheritage.com
  • Held over 18 community engagement meetings, workshops and events in Glasgow and Dundee.
  • Showcased Colourful Heritage internationally and regionally at conferences in Lahore (Pakistan), London and Scotland.
  • Entered into partnership with Glasgow Museums resulting in the creation of:
    • Scotland’s first dedicated South Asian and Muslim archive launched in 2014. Housed at Mitchell Library, the archive was named after the UK’s first Muslim Councillor, Mr Bashir Maan. It consists of photographs, letters, official documents as well as newspaper cuttings contributed by various people.
    • The first of its kind - a historical exhibition based at Scotland Street School Museum. It contains a fascinating timeline dating from 1855 and amazing artefacts such as a pedlar licence, 250-year-old Quran, medal awarded in 1904 to an Indian Muslim soldier serving in World War 1 and an election poster from 1970 when Britain’s first Muslim was elected to public office.
  • Edinburgh University Press publication (2017) by Professor Peter Hopkins in which Colourful Heritage have written a chapter titled “Feeling Scottish and being Muslim: Findings from the Colourful Heritage Project”.
  • Collaboration with the British Council on several fronts, including the development of  their digital library for South Asians abroad.
  • Reverse migration research – conducted preliminary analysis in Pakistan seeking individuals who returned to their native land having migrated earlier to Scotland.


Today, there are over 50,000 South Asians in Glasgow alone.  Some of them are immigrants whereas others are newer generations of people who immigrated to Scotland many decades ago. Have you ever wondered what motivated our elders to travel half way across the world to a foreign land? What challenges they faced on arrival in Scotland? Since most of them were uneducated/from villages in Punjab, what work they did to survive?

To address these very questions, group of young social entrepreneurs in 2010 got together raising their concerns that there was an ‘archival silence’ from the South Asian and Muslim community, whereas other communities were very good at preserving their past. They worried that not enough had been done to preserve the ‘inspirational stories’ and ‘pearls of wisdom’ that this early generation/the migrants had to offer, and that something had to be done before those elders passed away. Therefore what started as an informal discussion between friends has today become ‘Colourful Heritage’ – the first and largest heritage focused, community led charitable initiative in Scotland.




Omar Shaikh, Project Founder

Omar’s passion and consistency has been key in driving the project from inception. His role has been to develop partnerships and manage the various project strands. Inspired by the book 30 Lessons for Living, Omar recognised that the generation of early settlers was rapidly diminishing and society was in danger of losing their valuable experiences – lessons for living. In addition, he felt it was particularly important that for the history of a community be documented by that community to give an inside perspective.

Dr Saqib Razzaq, Project Researcher

Dr Saqib Razzaq joined the project in early 2016 conducting research and presenting at conferences internationally. Her role has also been to engage with the Glasgow community and find interesting objects for our upcoming exhibition at SSSM. She has enjoyed stepping back in time and learning about the events, experiences and the struggles of our elders that have helped to shape the Scotland that we live in today.


Charity Trustees

Tariq Shaikh -  ‘No other organisation in Scotland had worked to preserve the work of our South Asian forefathers and  elders who came to Scotland nearly 70 years ago. We wanted to highlight the positive contributions they made to the Scottish society both to the host and the Asian communities and wanted to create awareness of the personal sacrifices that they made to achieve this.’

Sajid Qauyum – It was important to have a real sense of being a Scottish Muslim and to record those stories and understand the thinking and the thought process of what they went through and the challenges they faced and to better understand where we are now and how we move forward from here.’

Dr Amanullah Durrani – The best stories are always the ones you hear first-hand and at the moment in our current generation we still have that connection with these first hand stories. My concern is that as time goes on obviously we will lose some of these stories unfortunately unless we document these stories and use them to inspire other people and I think one of the other things that is really important is that a lot of the people we have been interviewing, even their own children haven’t heard some of these stories.’


Colourful Heritage would like to thank all those who have assisted and represented the Advisory Board:

Tom Lea, Al Waleed Centre, Edinburgh University
Crawford McGugan, Glasgow Museums
Farkhanda Chaudhary MBE
Ghulam Rabbani MBE
Bashir Maan CBE
Dr. Shafi Kauser
Maqbool Rasul
Munawar Akbar
Nawaz Ali