The South Asia Gallery (in partnership with the British Museum) is the UK’s first permanent gallery dedicated to exploring the stories, experiences, cultures and contributions of South Asian diaspora communities in the UK. The inclusion of the rickshaw as a permanent exhibit for the gallery was chosen due to its significance as a form of transport in South Asia as well as its tradition for bold, colourful and deeply symbolic designs, often reflecting the social or political context.
To kick start the collaboration, Bangladesh based organisation Uronto delivered training and mentoring in rickshaw painting techniques to three young British Asian artists; Daya Bhati, Helen Abdul and Saheba Shabnum. This was accompanied by a programme of online public talks on rickshaw art, symbolism and legacy which was delivered during South Asian Heritage Month.
When it came to the design process, renowned rickshaw painter Syed Ahmed Hossan and artist Z. A. Saleh Zebermai from Dhaka collaborated with the three young British artists on the design and decoration of the rickshaw which was inspired by shared narratives of culture, heritage, history and identity between the South Asian communities in the UK and South Asia. If you look closely on the rickshaw you will see landmarks, themes and symbols representing Manchester as well as the region of South Asia (including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka).
The artists set up a studio space in the museum where collectively they painstakingly decorated every surface of the rickshaw over several months. This included a visit from Bangladesh painter Syed Ahmed Hossan who spent three weeks as artist in residence at the Museum.
This project facilitated an international exchange and dialogue between organisations providing paid opportunities for artists, curators and young people in the UK and in Bangladesh. The rickshaw collaboration is an intergenerational cultural knowledge project.
"Really exquisite, awesome, the rickshaw just bounces out at you as you enter the South Asia Gallery."
"This brings back such lovely memories of my childhood in Bangladesh."
"It’s so lovely to show this to my grandchildren. They are wanting to take a ride in one now."