Sarbjit Johal

I am an artist and an activist based in London. Most of my paintings are of women and particularly on the struggles faced by South Asian Women. I am an active member South Asia Solidarity Group (an anti-imperialist, anti-racist organisation based in Britain) and Freedom Without Fear Platform (an arena for Black, South Asian and 'Minority Ethnic' women to lead discussions on the violence against women and girls). I paint because it allows me to express my emotions, reflect more deeply and at the same time gives me the space to feel free to be myself.

This painting is of Darshan Kaur and Surinder Bassi, who were shop stewards at the Burnsall Strike (Birmingham 1992-1993). Surrender Bassi is speaking at the fund raising event which was held at the Camden Centre in 1992 and organised by the London Support group. 

The strike involved about 26 mainly Asian women workers. It was in a small metal finishing factory in Smethwick. The strikers were working in inhuman conditions and being denied breaks, sick pay and being forced to do overtime. Once on strike the strikers made links with the refugee community by mobilising support for protests against the draconian 1993 asylum and immigration appeals act which was being passed at the time. The strike was supported by a number of community groups and womens groups and students across the country. The punjabi text in Surinder’s hand translates as: ‘Without struggle there is no satisfaction’