Artwork by Shaheen Ahmed, who will feature in the Transforming Narratives Digital Collaborative Grants Programme ©

Photograph by David Rowan

Eighteen new creative projects that link Bangladesh, Pakistan and Birmingham will be developed as part of the Transforming Narratives Digital Collaborations programme.

Transforming Narratives is a three-year project, supporting creative and cultural practitioners and cultural organisations in Birmingham to engage in cultural and creative exchange with artists and organisations in cities in Pakistan and Bangladesh. The project offers a range of platforms for new artistic voices and exchanging narratives around contemporary lived experience across the three countries and will build meaningful and enduring relationships ahead of Birmingham hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2022. It is managed by Culture Central, supported by Arts Council England and delivered in collaboration with The British Council.

The projects, which span visual arts, music, dance, theatre and combined arts, will receive a total share of £75,000 and will be created during summer and autumn 2020. Each one uses digital technology to links artists, creative organisations and communities in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Birmingham.

A Walk With Imaginary Friends by Dr Shayekh Mohammed Arif of Half Moon Collective, one of the Tranforming Narratives Collaborative projects ©

Dr Shayekh Mohammed Arif

The supported projects are:

BLKBX - Dystopia
Dystopia considers the socio-political dimensions of the global pandemic and its after-effects, with a focus on inequalities and injustices. Working in partnership with Birmingham Museums Trust (BMT), Nafis Ahmed of BLKBX (Dhaka, Bangladesh) and a commissioned Birmingham artist will contrast experiences in Dhaka and Birmingham respectively through interdisciplinary new media-art forms. Both artworks will draw upon BMT’s existing ‘Life in Lockdown’ project and will be premiered across a range of digital platforms.

Shehzad Chowdhury - I don't know you, you don't know me
A collaborative project between Shehzad Chowdhury (Dhaka, Bangladesh) and Mahtab Hussain (Birmingham, UK), that takes place over the course of three months. Every week the artists will correspond with each other by making an artwork, using the medium of their choice, inspired by twelve distinct themes. Themes will include everything from karma, meditation and nourishment, to masculinity, body hair and brownness/blackness.

Half Moon Collective Bangladesh - A walk with my imaginary friend
This virtual collaboration explores how artists can reach and connect with audiences from distant places without actually being there. Exploring the notion that ‘we are all in the same sphere’, artists Dr. Shayekh Mohammad Arif (Dhaka, Bangladesh), Makbul Chowdhury (Birmingham, UK), Syed Waseem Haider (Lahore, Pakistan), Nuzhat Tabassum (Dhaka, Bangladesh) and Ajibor Rahman (Gazipur, Bangladesh) will respond to each other’s cities through a combination of locally recorded Foley and film with live draw-alongs.

The Sreepur Village - Shakti
Shakti, meaning feminine power in Sanskrit, is a partnership between Sreepur Village (Gazipur, Bangladesh) and Sampad (Birmingham, UK). This collaboration will enable new forms and ideas of contemporary expression in craft, with an exchange of traditional crafts and motifs practiced by women at Sreepur Village in rural Bangladesh and urban contemporary designs of craft artists in Birmingham.

Samira Syed - ANGON
ANGON is an interactive podcast series that invites artists and cultural practitioners from Bangladesh, Pakistan and respective diasporas in Birmingham to enter into dialogue on common narratives and forge new connections. Contributors will include authors, illustrators, academics, artists, journalists and thought leaders. Podcasts will be produced and curated by artists Masuma Halai Khwaja (Karachi, Pakistan), Nafis Ahmed (Dhaka, Bangladesh), Samira Syed (Dhaka, Bangladesh) and Ambareen Thompson of I AM KARACHI (Karachi, Pakistan).

Art Langar - Songs of Solitude (SOS)
Songs of Solitude (SOS) is a cross-artform collaboration musician Arieb Azhar, Art Langar (Islamabad, Pakistan) and Kalaboration Arts (Birmingham, UK) that creatively responds to untold stories of a Christian family in Islamabad and a Pakistani migrant family in Birmingham. The project will explore similarities in their unique experiences of belonging to minority communities within their respective countries while dealing with life under lock-down and the very real implications this has had on their families.

Ahsan Bari - Dhaka say Karachi 
Dhaka say Karachi will create a rich multi-dimensional musical, cultural and spiritual experience in the form of a short film with an original music score based on the works of the iconic Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore and the national poet of Pakistan Allama Iqbal, produced by Ahsan Bari (Karachi, Pakistan) and Sheikh Dina (Dhaka, Bangladesh).

Dance artists and creatives Uzma Ashraf, Momina Farooq and Alina Chaudhry (Lahore, Pakistan) will work with Gaudiya Nritya dancer Rachel Perris (Dhaka, Bangladesh) and children residing in the Kamahan area on the outskirts of Lahore in Pakistan. Traditional dance forms such as Kathak and Gaudiya Nritya will be reimagined alongside poetry to tell locally-rooted stories, which aim to reclaim and deepen artistic understanding and expression through a socio-economic lens.

Saba Khan
A collaboration between Shaheen Ahmed (Birmingham, UK), Jafrin Gulshan (Dhaka, Bangladesh) and Saba Khan (Lahore, Pakistan) that aims to recall and mine personal histories of displacement and loss. The project will explore major incisions in the country’s makeup, and their implications on migration and shared history.

Fahad Naveed - Baasi Khabrain / Baasi Khobor
Baasi Khabrain / Baasi Khobor (Urdu and Bangla for ‘Stale News’) is a publication of forgotten news. Interdisciplinary storyteller and journalist Fahad Naveed (Karachi, Pakistan) and filmmaker Rezwan Shahriar Sumit (Dhaka, Bangladesh) will collect newspaper scraps in Karachi and Dhaka respectively, and reflect on the fast-moving news cycle and dynamics of ‘breaking news’ during a pandemic.

Shallum Asher Xavier - Safar Surron Ka
This distinct musical collaboration and artistic union brings together established and aspiring singers and musicians, including artists from the under-served communities of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Through creative melodic ideas, poetry, digital dialogues, workshops and a theme song/music video in Bangla, Urdu and English, this cross-cultural showcase will platform the creative abilities of talented individuals and bring forward the exceptional musical heritage that is a common thread between both cultures. Participating artists include Waqas Almas (Karachi, Pakistan) and Labik Kamal (Dhaka, Bangladesh).

Deaf Explorer - Words, Signs & VV Photo Dictionary
Birmingham-based D/deaf photographer Rinkoo Barpaga’s collaboration with Ali Noonari (Karachi, Pakistan) will create a visual dictionary of new signs that have emerged out of lockdown. Together they will represent the unique viewpoint of D/deaf people to reveal the local and global inequality during the Covid-19 crisis.

GRAIN Projects
GRAIN Projects (Birmingham, UK), collaborating with Pathshala Asian Media Institute (Dhaka, Bangladesh) and Tasweer Ghar or Photo House (Lahore, Pakistan) will launch an artist exchange involving the sharing, publishing and exhibition of new work via digital platforms. Four photographers will make new work about their city, environment, family, heritage and community to reflect on place and time during 2020, including the challenges from Covid-19 and the steps towards recovery.  

Rupinder Kaur - Gully Zine
‘Gully’ translates as ‘alleyway’ in Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi and Bengali. This project will create multidisciplinary zines that platform the voices of South Asian creatives. Gully Zine will link to artists in Bangladesh and Pakistan, such as Maaria Waseem, offering diaspora communities in Birmingham a vivid reality instead of an imagined homeland. Gully Zine will be created by Nafeesa Hamid, Kamil Mahmood and Rupinder Kaur (Birmingham, UK).

Komola Collective - Mirror Effect
Mirror Effect is an exchange between young girls from Bangladesh and Birmingham exploring city life and female identities. This participatory project will work with twenty young girls between 13 to 18 years old and is a partnership with Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Komola Collective (London, UK) and Together We Can (Bangladesh).

Unmuted - Brum-Lahore
Open Theatre (Birmingham, UK) work with young people with learning disabilities to create quality art that reflects and celebrates their unique creativity. Open Theatre will collaborate with MAAS Foundation (Lahore, Pakistan), a theatre and performing arts organisation, to share artistic practices and lead creative workshops online with young people from both countries. Young people will be encouraged to use performance arts, mime, visual arts and photography to develop their own artistic practice.

Rebel Creatives - CollaborARTISTS
CollaborArtists is an uplifting project produced by Rebel Creatives (Birmingham, UK) that brings together seven talented creative and cultural practitioners from Birmingham, Pakistan and Bangladesh to reflect on isolation during the global pandemic and how it has introduced new ways of working in different parts of the world. Six artists will highlight the positive power of collaboration and the future of digital storytelling through visual art, spoken word and open conversations, which each tell individual stories, whilst coming together to form one powerful overarching narrative.