South Asian Heritage Month
Manchester Museum is celebrated South Asian Heritage Month with an unmissable two-day festival featuring film, music, workshops and more.
On 22 July there was an opportunity to attend the private screening of the Singh Twins’ film Jallianwala: Repression & Retribution followed by a conversation with the award-winning artists. The film focuses on their detailed artwork exploring the massacre of 13 April 1919, when a soldier of the British Raj ordered troops to open fire on a peaceful demonstration of unarmed Indian civilians. This was followed by an in conversation with the award-winning artists and Dr Deana Heath, author of Colonial Terror: Torture and State Violence in Colonial India.
The celebrations continued on 23 July with a series of Bengali folk music performances curated by Professor Anindita Ghosh. The event provided a rich showcase of Bengali musical traditions that are still critical in shaping Bangladeshi heritage in the region and the wider world. This was followed by a screening of a short film, ‘Our Songs’ featuring an intergenerational dialogue on Bangla folk music.
Poetry workshops with young people from Our Shared Cultural Heritage (OSCH) gave attendees the chance to explore ‘taboo’ subjects in a safe space. Award-winning author Anita Sethi hosted a writing workshop focusing on place, nature and journeying. The workshop was filled with practical tools and tips, and Anita encouraged participants to work on writing exercises and share and develop their own voice.
And there was a panel discussion with the South Asia Collective, a group of inspiring individuals who have been integral in the production and design of Manchester Museum’s forthcoming South Asia Gallery.
Esme Ward, Manchester Museum Director:
“South Asian Heritage Month is an important celebration of South Asian heritage and history in the UK through arts, culture, education and commemoration. We’re delighted to mark this with a number of events that are programmed in collaboration with South Asian communities, artists and performers. It is also an opportunity to give audiences a taste of what’s to come when Manchester Museum reopens to visitors in 2023. Among our extraordinary new galleries will be the UK’s first permanent space dedicated to exploring the stories, experiences, cultures and contributions of South Asian diaspora.”
About South Asian Heritage Month
South Asian Heritage Month (SAHM) is an annual awareness month.
SAHM begins on 18 July, when the Indian Independence Act 1947 gained royal assent, and ends on 17 August, when the Radcliffe Line was published in 1947, finally setting out the border between India, West Pakistan and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The start and end dates show just how much of an influence Britain has had on South Asia as a whole over the last few centuries. The dates coincide to a large extent with the South Asian month of Saravan/Sawan, which is the main monsoon month when the region's habitat undergoes renewal. Having it take place across the two Western calendar months of July and August is entirely apt, as it respects the traditions of the South Asian calendars. This period also includes several independence days connected to South Asian countries.
SAHM aims to transform how people connect with South Asian culture and identity in three simple ways:
Celebration of arts, culture and heritage
Commemoration of South Asian history
Education about South Asian-ness, both past and present
South Asia Gallery
A Partnership Gallery with the British Museum
Manchester Museum is currently closed to the public while we complete our £15 million hello future project which will transform and develop the museum becoming more inclusive, imaginative and caring to the diverse communities it serves.
Our hello future transformation includes a South Asia Gallery, which will present a dynamic, contemporary take on South Asian and British Asian culture. It is a multilingual gallery that brings world-class material from the British Museum to Manchester, displayed alongside the best of the museum’s South Asian collections, those of our partners across the city, as well as deeply personal objects.
It is the UK’s first permanent gallery to celebrate the stories of South Asian diaspora and it represents co-curation on an epic scale. People are at the heart of all our work, and collaboration and sharing multiple perspectives has driven the production of this space. 30 people, none of them museum and gallery professionals, most of South Asian heritage, have contributed to the development of the South Asia Gallery. Known as the ‘Collective,’ they are an inspirational group of educators, community leaders, artists, historians, journalists, scientists, musicians, and students.
The gallery is divided into anthologies, or themes, with much of the content drawing on the Collective members’ lived experience and heritage. They have centred their storytelling and the development of the gallery around their experiences – personally and professionally – as well as their families’ journeys, alongside their own research and interests. This personalised approach humanises the gallery, telling stories about real people and their objects.
There is also space at the heart of the gallery for intimate performances, immersive experiences and other activities, to bring people together and celebrate South Asian heritage. It will continue to be shaped by ideas and contributions from South Asian diaspora communities and programmed in collaboration with both local and international artists and performers.
When we reopen in February 2023, we look forward to welcoming you to a bigger, more inclusive and more wondrous museum.