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Oxford University's famous south Asian graduates
'Oxasians' - Photo Talkingpicturesltd.com
Actors will portray famous south Asians from Oxford's past and present

An exhibition will highlight famous south Asian Oxford University graduates past and present.

'Oxasians' is a multimedia installation utilising film interviews with historians, biographers and in some cases the subjects themselves.

It includes onscreen dramatisations by actors and life-size hologram style projections to tell the stories.

The Oxfordshire Record Office hosts the event which looks back 120 years and centres on 11 graduates.

Project manager Neena Sohal explained the thinking behind the project to BBC Oxford.

"I think amongst the Asian community we know a lot of politicians and sporting legends might have been at Oxford, but we don't know anything about their time there or how it really impacted on them later on in their careers or in their lives.

"So it was to open up understanding of these people a bit more, look at what their time in Britain - and more importantly Oxford - meant to them, and to break down some barriers that may exist about Oxford University as a whole."

'Oxasians' runs from Wednesday 5 May to Saturday 15 May 2010. Read on to find out more about the people covered in the exhibition...

Cornelia Sorabji (Somerville College)

Cornelia Sorabji
Sorabji was the first female Indian barrister

Cornelia Sorabji was born in India in 1866 to a Parsi Christian father and an Indian mother who had been adopted by a British family.

After coming to England she saved up money to study at Oxford by working as a professor at a men's college.

In 1892 she became the first woman ever to take the Bachelor of Civil Laws exam at Oxford University. To do so a special decree had to be passed to allow her to sit the exam with the men.

Sorabji became closely acquainted with the British elite, but ensured she always stood out in a crowd. "She played the role of Indian student at Oxford," explained Elleke Boehmer, currently Professor of World Literature in English at Oxford.

"She wore very brightly coloured saris... in combination with her high collared late Victorian blouses, I imagine with the leg o' mutton sleeves."

She went on to become the first female Indian barrister and championed the rights of women in India.

Princesses Catherine and Bamba Duleep Singh (Somerville College)

Catherine and Bamba were daughters of the last Maharaja of the Sikh, Raj Duleep Singh.

He had been exiled to Great Britain as a young boy and was the ward of Queen Victoria. She insisted that the Maharaja's children be given the best English education and was instrumental in the princesses studying in Oxford in the 1890s.

It was a traumatic time for the girls. Their mother had recently died and their father was fighting a campaign to reclaim the throne of the Punjab.

"I think they would have wanted to study very quietly," suggested Peter Bance, historian and author of 'Sovereign, Squire and Rebel - Maharaja Duleep Singh'.

"They... had a very hard last few years leading up to Somerville, so I don't think they wanted to voice too much of their political or religious views in any way."

As adults they took part in the Suffragette movement, assisted Jews escape Nazi Germany, founded a Museum in Norfolk and served as patrons to numerous English establishments.

Solomon Ridgeway Bandaranaike
Bandaranaike was Prime Minister of Sri Lanka

Bamba later styled herself as 'Queen of the Punjab' but when she died in 1957 she was the last surviving member of the dynasty.

Solomon Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike (Christ Church College)

The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) from 1956 to 1959 was secretary of the Oxford Union in 1923.

He qualified as a barrister and founded the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. He was assassinated by a Buddhist monk.

Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi (Balliol College)

Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi was the Nawab of Pataudi and began his education at Oxford in 1927.

He was one of the few cricketers to play for two countries, taking part in both the Indian and English cricket teams.

Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi was the first and only female Prime Minister of India

He scored a century on his Test debut for England during the 1932-33 Ashes series. He was captain for the India tour to England in 1946.

Indira Gandhi (Somerville College)

Indira Gandhi originally failed her entrance examination for Oxford but was eventually accepted at Somerville College.

She was the first, and to date only, female Prime Minister of India and the world's longest serving woman Prime Minister (1966 to 1977 and 1980 until 1984 when she was assassinated).

Ved Mehta (Balliol College)

Ved Mehta is a Lahore-born author who read Modern History at Oxford University in the 1950s.

Blind from the age of four, he has written several books on his condition and on many other subjects.

He was a staff writer at The New Yorker.

Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi (Balliol College)

Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, like his father, was also captain of the Indian cricket team.

He played in 46 Test matches between 1961 and 1975.

He was also the ninth and last Nawab of Pataudi.

Manmohan Singh (Nuffield College)

Manmohan Singh completed his DPhil at the University of Oxford in 1962.

Manmohan Singh
Manmohan Singh is the current Prime Minister of India

He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree by the university in 2006.

He is the current Prime Minister of India.

He is the first Sikh to hold the post and was this year listed by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Benazir Bhutto (Lady Margaret Hall)

Benazir Bhutto's father, Zulfikhar Ali Bhutto, was founder of the Pakistan People's Party and studied at Christ Church College.

Believing studying at Oxford opened up new horizons and installed a sense of discipline he was determined his children would follow in his footsteps.

He was Prime Minister of Pakistan as Benazir took up Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Lady Margaret Hall, which she studied between 1973 and 1977. In addition to this she completed courses in International Law and Diplomacy.

Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, was assassinated in 2007

Gillian Peele, Senior Tutor at Lady Margaret Hall, remembered her well: "She had a trademark yellow sports car and she said to me, looking very woeful, 'I really did write the essay but I left it in my sports car and somebody stole the essay.'

"I said, 'Benazir, do you really expect me to believe this, that somebody stole your essay, rather than your car?'"

Afterwards she attended St Catherine's College and was elected president of the Oxford Union in 1976, becoming the first Asian woman to do so.

She was the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state when she became Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1988. She was assassinated two weeks before the Pakistani general election of 2008.

Her son Bilawal now studies at Christ Church, his grandfather's college.

Rajeeb Dey (Jesus College)

Rajeeb Dey is an entrepreneur who graduated from Oxford University in 2008.

He founded Enternships.com, a website for people to find internship opportunities at small companies during his time in the city.



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