Work by a UCLan graduate and photos from Mahatma Gandhi's visit to Darwen will feature at a dedicated South Asian gallery which opens its doors to the public in February.

Manchester Museum’s new South Asia Gallery is the first permanent gallery in the UK dedicated to the experiences and histories of South Asian communities.

Manchester Museum, part of the University of Manchester, will reopen to the public on February 18 following a major capital redevelopment, and this new multilingual gallery will explore the connection between South Asia and Britain’s legacy of Empire, and present fresh perspectives on British Asian and South Asian culture and creativity.

The gallery has been uniquely co-curated by the South Asia Gallery Collective, a group of 30 inspiring individuals including community leaders, educators, artists, historians, journalists and musicians.

It will be showcasing more than 140 historic artefacts from the collections of the Manchester Museum and British Museum, alongside new contemporary commissions and personal objects provided by the Collective, the gallery will present a range of personal stories that provide visitors with a window into South Asia. 

The gallery aims to reflect multiple voices and perspectives on South Asia through six overarching themes: Past & Present, Lived Environments, Innovation & Language, Sound, Music & Dance, British Asian, and Movement & Empire.

Azraa Motala, a multidisciplinary artist from Lancashire, merges the Western tradition of oil painting with South Asian visuals and her work will feature in 'British Asian' which explores identity through a range of expressions from pop music to art.

In the painting 'I beg you to define me', Azraa Motala looks at dress 'as a marker of identity in a society where South Asian Muslim women are often considered pawns in political discourse'.

In Past & Present; the public will explore the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation through a contemporary lens, sharing perspectives beyond archaeologists' perceptions of that time.

It will also present powerful female figures of the Mughal Empire such as Nur Jahan to reflect on the role of women and reveal the impact of Gandhi’s visit to the cotton mill town of Darwen in 1931 - through the connection of Manchester’s cotton industry to the Indian independence movement.

Lancashire Telegraph:

The Singh Twins Exhibition

Lancashire Telegraph:

Farah Ahmed and Talat-Farooq Awan (Pictures Mayram Wahid)

An NHS display will also celebrate the importance of the South Asian community to UK medicine, from the 1950s movement of medics to the UK to the significant contribution of the community during the Covid pandemic.

New commissions will populate the space, celebrating contemporary South Asian creativity and innovation, including a rickshaw imported from Bangladesh and decorated by communities in Manchester and a 17 metre long newly commissioned mural from British artists, The Singh Twins, illustrating an emotional map of South Asian diaspora experience.

Lancashire Telegraph:

South Asia Gallery Collective - a group of 30 inspiring individuals including community leaders, educators, artists, historians, journalists and musicians