New North and South: The project connecting Manchester with South Asia.

  • New North and South aims to connect cultures with exhibitions and performances by leading artists.
Waqas Khan’s neon work, KhushAmdeed, means “Welcome” in Urdu.

An exciting artistic project connecting the North of England with South Asia aims to provide a platform for artistic talent.

New North and South is a three-year programme made up of a network of 10 arts organisations across South Asia and Northern England.

It will include artistic commissions, exhibitions and performances in Manchester Art Gallery, the Whitworth and Manchester Museum, who are working with the Liverpool Biennial and The Tetley in Leeds to connect with their South Asian partners: Colombo Biennale (Sri Lanka), Dhaka Art Summit (Bangladesh), Karachi and Lahore Biennale’s (Pakistan) and Kochi-Muziris Biennale (India).

Alison Darnbrough, Project Coordinator for the New North and South network, trained as a curator in Manchester. She has worked in museums and galleries, as well as in higher education, before spending 10 years living and working in Pakistan.

She said: “Manchester has such an amazing, diverse population yet the galleries and museums before this were not reflecting that diversity. 9% of the Greater Manchester population are of South Asian heritage, but they weren’t coming to the museums and galleries in the numbers that were hoped for.

“This project was a way of promoting it wider to people of South Asian heritage, and saying “look at this amazing work that’s happening”, but also to try and increase the number of audiences from South Asian heritage into our museums and galleries.”

The first twelve months of the project kicked off in Manchester in February. Within just a few months, the diversity of the galleries’ audiences was notable.

Alison said: “We knew in the first 2 months by looking around that it felt different at the events we were engaging with. I think making these connections is really important, with both the conversations that are happening between cultures but also the future work that’s going to happen between the cities, between Biennale’s. It may even mean there are more cities wanting to get involved.

National and international press coverage of the project has helped place Manchester on the map, says Alison: “It’s not just about things that are happening in London, there’s so much amazing stuff happening in Manchester. We’re a northern powerhouse.”

Raqib Shaw, After a Midsummer Nights Dream, 2017: “New wallpaper designed by Shaw, commissioned specially for the exhibition, creates an extraordinary backdrop for his work.” – South Asia arts and culture programme.

Indian-born, London-based Raqib Shaw is an artist represented within the New North and South network.

Shaw shot to fame internationally at age 33 following various solo and group exhibitions across the world. His recent solo exhibition at The Whitworth explored real and imagined spaces between East and West.

In an interview with Apollo Magazine, he said: “I grew up in Kashmir, where my influences were hangings, fabrics, carpets – that sort of thing. This exhibition places my work in that context. It gives a voice to Kashmir.”

Artists currently exhibiting across Manchester include Sooni Taraporevala at the Whitworth and Waqas Khan at Manchester Art Gallery.

Alison says: “Waqas Khan’s neon work, the KhushAmdeed, which means welcome in Urdu, is in Manchester Museum’s window, it’s as you walk into the Whitworth and it’s in Manchester Art Gallery.

“The response to that, because we’re saying “Welcome, come in”, has worked wonders in breaking down the barriers.”

The project will commence in March 2019.