People on the Move

Mixing traditions

Vibrant communities

In this day and age, most of the world’s capital cities are veritable metropoles: patchworks of national, religious and cultural communities co-existing, sharing and exchanging traditions. New music trends, exotic cuisines, lavish feasts: a rich societal mix offers opportunities to taste, see, hear and experience 'a little bit of everything' every day.

A more diversified blend of cultures than that of London, is hardly imaginable.

As one of the most diverse cities in the world, London counts about 40% of immigrated inhabitants, speaking 300 languages. In 1948, Caribbean communities settled in the city in substantial numbers after the arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush: a troopship carrying more than 1,000 passengers from Jamaica. The Sunset Club in Soho, shown in this photograph, was an important place for the community to meet and mix with other Londoners. The club was known for playing jazz until the early hours and gained widespread fame as the venue of the maiden concert of Britain’s first steel band.

Strong migrant communities often leave a distinct mark on the districts they inhabit, as attested to by nicknames such as ‘Irishtown’, ‘Little Italy’ and ‘Chinatown’.

The first Chinatown developed in Liverpool in the 1830s around migrants involved in intercontinental trade and shipping. Later, Chinatowns emerged in London, Manchester, Paris, Amsterdam, Den Haag, Berlin, Antwerp and San Francisco. Although some of these neighbourhoods boast Chinese-style temples and entrance gates, they are not always marked by architectural features. Rather, they’re host to specific businesses, restaurants and stores. Today, Chinatowns are more likely to be pan-Asian than strictly Chinese and have become ports of call for tourists and foodies looking for authentic flavours.

Lithuanians living in the United States now and in the past have stayed connected to home through cultural initiatives, rather than gathering in specific neighbourhoods.

Numismatist, philatelist, ethnographer, curator, artist and physician Alexander Mykolas Rackus was a key figure in the history of the Lithuanian diaspora. Born near Kaunas in 1893, he emigrated to the US in 1910 where he graduated from medical school receiving an MD in surgery. Rackus was a member of various cultural organizations and was involved in editing and printing Lithuanian publications. In 1917 he became a member of the Lithuanian Numismatic and Historical Society in Chicago. Yet his private collection stretched far beyond numismatics, containing thousands of publications, flags, badges, uniforms and photographs attesting to the cultural life of Lithuanian-Americans. This poster commemorates the United States’ recognition of Lithuania, showing a Lithuanian museum and a Liberty Bell (an American gift to Lithuania), at the centre, and the two nations’ presidents in the lower corners.

Connected by culture, traditions and language, the Roma people - a traditionally itinerant ethnic group living mostly in Europe and the Americas - form strong communities all over the world, particularly in Eastern Europe.

In Serbia and the Balkans, several groups of Roma people now live, each with their own customs, traditions, dialects and religions. The differences stem from the fact that the Roma are not an isolated social and cultural entity: they have always belonged both to their own community and the nation-state where they live. Yet the communities share common historical roots and linguistic backgrounds, and some of their cultural traits overlap.

The main holidays of the Roma people in Vranje (Southern Serbia) are Vasilica and Đurđevdan. Đurđevdan is also celebrated by the Serbs, yet the Roma have given the feast their own special touch. Vasilica is considered to be an original Roma holiday and therefore a vital element of their cultural identity.