By Lauren Codling

EIGHT exhibitions by south Asian artists were launched last weekend as organisers
hope to encourage Asians to visit local galleries and museums in the north of England.

The New North and South network is made up of 11 arts organisations from south Asia and the north of England.

Their three-year project aims to showcase the contemporary art from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the UK to help connect with diverse audiences on both continents.

Neha Choksi, 43, is one of the artists featured. Her work is a seven-channel video installation featuring her friends on a construction site in India.

Neha Choksi’s work is on display as part of the exhibition (Pic: Michael Pollard)

Choksi described the inspiration behind her work to Eastern Eye. “The piece started in my head to create conditions in reality which elaborate on my belief that humans are born free, but in order to become civilized we need to learn to engage and depend on each other,” she said.

The artist was born in the US but grew up in Bombay, where she said she was exposed to “more theatre, dance and music than visual art”.

“I always made art ever since I was a child and it was always understood I was an artist,” Choksi said.

Dr Nick Merriman, the director of Manchester Museum and a spokesperson for North and South, told Eastern Eye last Friday (29) that although 13 per cent of Manchester’s population is south Asian, very few from the minority community visited art attractions.

“We were also simultaneously aware through attendance at various art fairs that there was a fantastically dynamic contemporary art scene in south Asia; that we really didn’t know enough about and weren’t really showing in the UK, particularly in the north, and that all came together around the idea of doing a major project,” Dr Merriman said.

Other works on display include a collection of minimalist ink drawings by Waqas Khan, a Pakistani artist, who Dr Merriman picked as one of his personal highlights.

“[Khan] does amazingly intricate drawings and paintings of organic forms based on Sufi mysticism and his own experience of biology and so on. It’s a universal meditation
on life which is fantastic to see,” he said.

Work by Pakistani artist Waqas Khan (Pic: Michael Pollard)

Given recent tragic events in the UK and globally such as the spike in hate crime and terrorist attacks, Dr Merriman said it is “really important” that we understand different cultures”.

He added: “There is a big push in our cultural strategy in Manchester to do work that increases intercultural understanding and promotes tolerance through exposing people to a wider variety of culture and cultural perspectives.”

The exhibitions are showing at various locations in Manchester until February 2017. See www.newnorthandsouth.org

Feature image © Michael Pollard