First British Asian Sari

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A Mumbai-born illustrator based in north west London has won the top prize in the British Sari Story national competition for new British Asian sari patterns with his "Sari for Harrow’.

Nilesh Mistry, 40, was presented with the award by Baroness Flather, the first British Asian woman to receive a peerage, at the British Sari Story launch at Brent Museum last night (Thursday 27 September 2007).


"I am absolutely thrilled," he said. "I feel so proud that I’ve been able to put something back into Indian culture and the Indian visual arts in this country, to make a contribution to such as traditional item as the sari and to reinterprete it for our times."

Mistry’s sari shows Harrow’s coat of arms and the famous public school but also the ‘real’ Harrow - an exquisite border of its citizens including a Somali woman in a Burka, a hoodie with a mobile phone, a Gujarati housewife, a Polish builder and Afro Caribbean woman and a mullah.

The competition, created and staged by the cultural arts organisation Bridging Arts, called for people around the country to create sari designs reflecting British Asian life today. Entrants entered patterns ranging from cup cakes and the Yorkshire weather to the Union Jack and the London Underground.

Ten finalists had their patterns printed on to new saris by the University of East London which are now on display at Brent Museum.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and part of the Mayor of London’s India Now celebrations, the British Sari Story exhibition marks the 60th anniversary of Indian independence by celebrating British Asian heritage. Also on display are drawings by artist Helen Scalway of a sari shop in Tooting, south London and saris collected by children at Barham Primary School, Wembley, chosen because of their particular significance to their families.

For more information about the British Sari Story, email Susan Roberts at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 020 8749 9010 or 0794 12 52 444. The British Sari Story exhibition is at Brent Museum from 28 September 2007 until 28 January 2008. Besides showcasing traditional and new saris, the exhibition displays saris collected by children at Barham Primary School, Wembley, chosen because of their particular significance to their families. An Education Pack has been developed around this work.

Alongside the new and old saris hang intricate drawings by artist and researcher Helen Scalway of fabric patterns and life inside a sari shop in Tooting, south London.

Visit for more information.

The ten finalists were:

A Scottish sari (Rahiet Ashfa\)

My Indian Summer sari (Shilpa Rajan)

A British and Sri Lankan sari (Sumi Perera)

A Notting Hill Carnival sari (Shema Ladva)

A Sari for the iPOD generation (Samar Abbas)

A British Sari Landscape (Pamela Rana)

A Yorkshire sari (Ramim Nasim)

A sari for London (Nilesh Mistry)

A Cornish sari (Miranda Hicks)

A sari for Harrow (Nilesh Mistry)

For more information about Brent Museum and its programme of activities visit or call 020 8937 3602. Brent Museum is a free, brand new Council run museum dedicated to the history of the borough. The museum recently relocated to Willesden Green Library Centre, High Road, Willesden Green, NW10 2SU.

Bridging Arts works with art, photography and design to raise awareness of issues central to people’s lives and trigger debate. Visit for more information.

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