A range of contemporary poets, performers and writers recently gathered to discuss the effect of the Partition between India and Pakistan, at an event organised by Manchester Metropolitan University.
Curated by Alnoor Mitha, Senior Research Fellow at Manchester Met, the event was held at HOME as part of the Manchester International Festival.
It marked the impact of the Partition, which took place 70 years ago, and explored its continued effect on debates on migration, race and identity today.
Different backgrounds, different perspectives
Called Imagined Homeland, the event explored the ongoing impact of Partition on South Asian communities in the UK and across the world.
Uniquely, it featured contemporary poets and performers who prepared new work in response to themes as they unfolded throughout the day.
“Each and every speaker had something completely new and different to offer,” said Alnoor. “Whether it was performance poetry, photographic images, or historical context – each response illuminated Partition in a novel and interesting way.
“Through the use of arresting photos and images Yasmin Khan, our keynote speaker, very accurately realised what happened during Partition. Her slides brought a very complex event to life in a very lucid way.
“Dilip Hero offered a very important perspective from someone who has written extensively about Partition and who has in-depth historical knowledge of the event. It was a privilege to hear from him.
“It was equally interesting in an altogether different way to hear from our performers such as dancer and performance poet Yandass Ndlovu.
“Yandass gave a unique personalised vision as someone who didn’t know too much about Partition. Through talking to young people she brought a very powerful perspective.
“Equally, Elmi Ali’s performance poetry reminded how the events of 70 years ago still influence things today. The images and ideas of the day channeled modern events, such as the Syrian refugee crisis or our nation’s divided stance on immigration.”
“Who do you think you are?”
Many of the audience members came from a migrant background – a key aim for Alnoor in putting together the event.
“Manchester has a sizeable South Asian community, and I felt it important that we reach out and engage with them. Collaborating with the Manchester International Festival helped us achieve this, through its high profile, and also helped us reach out to a wider community.”
Next year Alnoor will be curating the Asia Triennial Manchester (ATM) – a series of exhibitions and events that will continue the debate around race, and identity.
“Our theme for the ATM in 2018 is ‘Who do you think you are?’. We see conflict everywhere – whether that’s in images of war or disaster. And yet, we see moments of genuine compassion from people too through acts of kindness and humanity.
“The ATM will raise questions about identity and create debates through visual artwork, much in the way the symposium engaged with debate through performance poetry.”
All eyes on Asia Triennial Manchester 2018
Justine Daniels, Director of the Research and Knowledge Exchange, said: “Alnoor deserves warm congratulations for putting together this stirring, thought-provoking and unique event which marks a significant event in world history. I eagerly await the Asia Triennial Manchester in 2018 which I’m sure will be equally provocative and engaging.”
Professor Richard Greene, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Research and Knowledge Exchange and Manchester Metropolitan University, commented: “Imagined Homeland was a unique way of engaging with the historical events that led to the displacement of millions of people and ultimately the creation of two independent states.
“I believe the Asia Triennial Manchester will be an equally innovative way of engaging the local and national South Asian community in debates around race, culture and identity.”