Preview: New North and South network

A three-year collaboration between the north of England and South Asia celebrates their shared heritage

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The relationship between England and South Asia is one that goes back centuries, from the arrival of British ships on the Subcontinent in the 17th century to the shared diplomatic vision most countries in the region still share with the UK in areas such as investment, education and trade.

The 1947 Partition of India marked the end of the Raj, but after almost 100 years of British rule, the UK has left an indelible mark.

In a bid to celebrate the shared heritage across the continents and acknowledge the more uncomfortable truths of colonialism, 11 arts organisations from the north of England and South Asia are coming together to form a new three-year collaboration.

The New North and South network aims to bring prominence to the work of Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and UK artists and encourage new artistic commissions, exhibitions and performances in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool, and in Colombo, Dhaka, Lahore, Karachi and Kochi.

Indian performance artist Nikhil Chopra is planning a performance at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry. His piece is inspired by a steam locomotive held in the museum’s permanent collection. The train was built in Newton-le-Willows but served on the Indian railways and was transferred to Pakistan after Partition.

“The railways have always tickled my imagination – the idea of how these machines connect people,” says Chopra. “The Subcontinent was unified by the powers for independence in 1947 through these networks of railways that they built through remote villages and the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent. So as much as it’s a symbol of connection and connectivity it becomes a symbol of power and control.

“While the train is a display of British ingenuity and state-of-the-art engineering for the time, it’s also important for me as an artist to remind people of the trauma and the loss of hope and life that has come with the trains. If you think about Partition, these trains played a large part in what became the largest exodus ever in the history of mankind.”

The collaboration will also see others including the Manchester Museum, the Tetley in Leeds and Liverpool Biennial hosting a string of artists who will exhibit their work over a three year period.

From September the network will launch a Manchester-wide programme, which will include the first major UK exhibition by Raqs Media Collective exploring the history of suffrage and the birth of the labour movement.

Liverpool Biennial will host residencies that will enable mid-career artists from South Asia to work with artists and curators with international reputations. The residencies will end with co-commissions with the Lahore and Karachi Biennales later this year.

As part of the programme Chopra is planning a week-long workshop with fellow performance artists Madhavi Gore and Jana Prepeluh. Bodyworkshop encourages artists to develop a performance piece which they present at the end of the sessions.

“We have found the workshops to be quite potent and effective, especially in South Asia,” says Chopra. “We need to do a lot of work to break people out of certain pre-set notions of what the body is and what the body’s potential is. We haven’t had a punk movement, we haven’t grown up looking at heavily tattooed or pierced people. We really haven’t had the opportunity to play with our identities and our sexualities in the way people in Europe and America have. One of the things that we hope a workshop like this does is transform.”

For more information on the New North and South Network visit

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