Poppy Retake video art installation by Kooj Chuhan

colonial narratives, spirits from the dead and video war games

a video art installation by Kuljit ‘Kooj’ Chuhan


a new version showing at M Shed, Bristol, UK

The Poppy Retake

 and other work exploring
Colonies, Militarism and WWI

At M Shed, Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol BS1 4RN Tel:
0117 352 6600
From Weds 10th April until Tues 7th May 2019
Open Tuesday – Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays 10am-5pm (closed on all other Mondays)

It’s great that we are about to have The Poppy Retake at M-Shed Museum on show for a month as a part of the Commemoration, Conflict and Conscience festival – see https://everydaylivesinwar.herts.ac.uk/ccc/ . Special thanks to the Remembering the Real World War I group, and also Tony T at Sweet Patootee www.sweetpatootee.co.uk for inviting the work to be shown. More about The Poppy Retake at http://crossingfootprints.com/poppy-retake/ but here’s a quick summary:

India, Africa, the West Indies, colonialism and recruitment, impacts of war and our ongoing culture of war explored by an exhibition of artistic and educational work.  Includes ‘The Poppy Retake’, video art by Kooj Chuhan weaving together colonial narratives, spirits from the dead and video war games.  We confront our connections with wars as recruitment and their impacts on people who had been colonised.  The documentary exhibition ‘From the Shadows of War and Empire’ by Southern Voices explores how European powers brought colonies into World War I, took resources from these countries and took the war to ‘fronts’ outside Europe.

The Poppy Retake workshop

‘World War I’s Hidden Voices’ Workshop

Saturday 27th April, 2pm-4pm at M-Shed. Free, no booking required.

Two critical presentations about the role of India, East Africa, Nigeria and the West Indies in WWI, including colonialism and recruitment, the impacts of war and our ongoing culture of war with discussion. 

Cultural Representations of World War One and other wars: how colonies are kept invisible by Kooj Chuhan

Colonial realities of WWI: uncovering the involvement and experience of peoples from British colonies by Dipali Das and Ruth Tait

The Great War of 1914 -1918 is usually seen as a ‘European War’. Though the war was fought between European countries, the fact they involved their colonies is mostly invisible. Recognition is usually framed as a praiseworthy ‘contribution’ rather than mass enforcement. This workshop will expose the full extent of involvement from the British colonies in World War I, the impact the war had on those regions, its legacy for those countries and cultural representation of the war

Artist’s talk + Guided tour of The Poppy Retake at M-Shed

At 1pm on Sunday 28th April Kooj Chuhan will walk and talk through the various work in The Poppy Retake and From The Shadows Of War And Empire as a ‘guided tour’. He will discuss the background context, how the project came about, and some ways in which this kind of work could develop further.

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The Poppy Retake

video art installation by Kooj (Kuljit Singh Chuhan) – new version

Modern war propaganda began with World War I which obscured its pointlessness and deep colonial connections, while pretending to be the ‘war to end all wars’.  This artwork explores coercion into war, involving an African woman working for a war-themed park.  She finds herself caught between colonial narratives, spirits from the dead and video war games.

Since the end of WWI we have seen numerous wars with the majority in regions once colonised.  Modern video gaming is now the epitome of obscuring both the horror and the colonial roots of much conflict.  The Poppy Retake suggests our multiple connections with wars as forms of cultural recruitment but which impact mostly on people from ex-colonies.  It extends the perspectives developed in the documentary exhibition ‘From The Shadows Of War and Empire’.


From the Shadows of War and Empire

documentary exhibition by Southern Voices

Few know about how European powers brought colonies into World War I, took resources from these countries and took the war to ‘fronts’ outside Europe.  An exhibition which finally tells this major part of the story from the colonies’ point of view.  We focus on India, the West Indies, German and British East Africa, and Nigeria – the British Colonies.

Did you know that the first and last shots of World War One by ‘British’ forces were fired not in Europe, but in Africa?  Or that 1.5 million soldiers from India fought for the British?  The exhibition examines the impact of 1914-18 on these selected colonised countries from the viewpoint of the colonised peoples themselves – their situation as colonies, the impact of the war on them and on anti-colonial struggles.  Accompanied by ‘The Poppy Retake’ art installation by Kooj Chuhan.


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The Poppy Retake at M-Shed

Artistic support team:
Actor – Tracey Zengeni
Interview appearance by Sikh elder – Maluk Singh Chuhan
Sound Recordist and Second Production Assistant – Jaydev Mistry
First Production Assistant – Aidan Jolly
Event co-manager – Rosalind Sandhu-Cartlich
Creative social media – Maya Chowdhry
Video Documentation – Mazaher R
Southern Voices partnership coordinator – Kirit Patel

at the Z-arts Centre launch:
Serge Tebu, Emmanuela Yogolelo and Amani Creatives – music
Ikem Nzeribe and Washington Alcott – speakers
Afshan D’Souza-Lodhi – poetry

at the Manchester Central Library launch:
Rani Moorthy (dramatised readings) and Jaydev Mistry (music) – performance
Ahmed El-Hassan and Colette Williams – speakers

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