A South Asian Summer

Unbelievably it’s been almost a year since I last blogged! Since my entry in August 2016 I’ve been working on a number of exciting South Asia related projects, and had the opportunity to visit India.

In December 2016 I travelled to India with colleagues Menaka Munro, Learning Manager, and Dr Nick Merriman, Director. We met museum professionals, explored potential collaborations, and conducted research in Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi. The visit culminated in Kerala where we joined colleagues from Manchester, Liverpool, and Leeds at the Kochi Biennial.

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Market, New Delhi, December 2016

The visit was part of our preparatory work for three exhibitions opening this summer, and a new gallery dedicated to the history and culture of South Asia opening in 2020. From mid-August onwards Manchester Museum will be brimming with South Asian art, culture and history:

  • Memories of Partition – A collaborative project documenting the collective memory of families in Manchester affected by the 1947 Partition of India into the independent nations of India, Pakistan, and subsequently Bangladesh in 1971. Opens to the public on August 15
  • Celebrating Ganesha – A temporary British Museum loan of a magnificent stone sculpture of the Hindu god Ganesha dating to the thirteenth century. Opens to the public on September 2. Find out more here
  • Reena Saini Kallat – A solo art show featuring the work of contemporary Mumbai based artist Reena Saini Kallat. This show is part of the wider New North and South project. This show will open with a series of others at the Whitworth, Manchester Art Gallery, and Manchester Museum of Science and Industry from September 29 onwards. Find out more here   

In some way each of these projects will contribute to the creation of the new gallery. The South Asia Gallery is being developed in partnership with the British Museum and Manchester’s diverse South Asian communities. It will explore the history and culture of South Asia from the earliest periods of human occupation to the modern day diaspora. The gallery is part of Manchester Museum’s wider Courtyard Project that will see an extended and revitalised museum opening in 2020. Find out more here.

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Making Migrants: The British Empire and Mass Migration

Given the anti-migration rhetoric currently dominating the political discourse you’d be forgiven for believing that Britain has always existed in a state of perpetual ‘splendid isolation’. The truth is the British Isles geographically, economically, culturally and politically have always been a beacon for migrants both historically and contemporarily. Concomitantly Britain as a former imperial power has instigated and enforced migration in other parts of the world. One of the most critical examples of this was the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. For a brief overview of this world changing event the following video produced by The Economist should help:

The partition of India and Pakistan resulted in an estimated 15 million people being displaced with another 500,000 dying as a consequence of conflict. The speed with which Britain drew up partition plans and then subsequently withdrew has been cited as one cause for the violence. With ongoing civil unrest and political instability post-partition many people sought refuge by migrating to Britain. Following a war between East and West Pakistan in 1970-71, the result of which was the creation of Bangladesh, many Bangladeshis fled to Britain.

Astonishingly this globally significant event which resulted in unfathomable mass migration and interminable conflict is left relatively unexplored in UK museums. As part of our thematic collecting project (http://bit.ly/16WpOEzI’ll be exploring Britain’s role in instigating such migration and how it has impacted on collections and communities in Manchester. Soon I’ll be shooting a short film which will examine the effect partition had on diversifying Greater Manchester.