South Asian Heritage Month: The Newcastle artists finding inspiration from their cultural heritage

An exhibition is hoping to tell the multicultural stories in the North East.

Two artists from Newcastle have been displaying their work at the Gateshead Library - all inspired by their South Asian heritage.

Artist Mani Kamboo said: "My cultural heritage is used within my practice and takes inspiration from these elements.

"My family are from India, and within the caste system they are classed as tailors, fabric dyers and print makers. So I wanted to use that element within the work that is being shown."

Some of the fabrics on display at the 'Lore' exhibition Credit: Mani Kamboo

The other artist on display at the exhibition is Sophia Barton. She said that she takes inspiration from some of her mum's cultural outfits growing up.

"A lot of my colour palettes are very bright, and seeing my mums shalwar khameez, langas for weddings" she said. "It's all very bright and beautiful and that kind of informs a background of my work and it really inspires me."

One of Sophia's most popular designs includes a homage to Newcastle Credit: Sophia Barton

The work has been commissioned by arts organisation, GemArts, who believe the arts enrich the lives of individuals and communities through celebrating a shared cultural diversity.

The organisation based in Gateshead specialises in South Asian and cultural diverse arts - they put on performances, events and workshops throughout the North East.

Vikas Kumar, Director of GemArts, said: "South Asian communities have contributed hugely in all sorts of ways through restaurants, businesses, food. But also through culture and creativity.

"It also inspires and raises aspirations for young people from those communities and even wider communities as well, to learn about different cultures and representation.

"That's why it's important that we programme, support and develop that art form in the North East."

He also added that this exhibition is placed at a poignant time in the year, during South Asian Heritage Month.

The exhibition is separated into two sections for the artists in the Gateshead Library. The ground floor gallery hosts 'Lore' by Mani, while the first floor is 'Narivad' by Sofia.

So what are the exhibitions all about? Take a look below:

  • 'Lore' by Mani Kambo.

The artwork on display reflects Mani's cultural heritage. She is influenced by her upbringing in an Indian household filled with superstition, prayer and religious ceremony.

Textile, fabric dying and printmaking is rooted in Kambo's family history within the caste system. She focuses on objects, routines and rituals distilled both from the everyday and mythology.​​​​​​​

Her work records movement and documents performative actions – the hand that creates the action, fire that reveals, water which is the purifier and eyes that perceive: through the exploration of totemic objects and symbols.

Lore brings together ideas of superstition, protection and storytelling.

  • 'Narivad' by Sofia Barton.

Narivad (meaning Feminism in Sanskrit) looks at the Indian suffragettes who helped shaped feminism on a global scale.

With the use of matchbox designs inspired by those in her grandfather's collection, Sofia creates a homage of images to these influential figures.

Some of the designs range from an Indian Princess living in London, to a mixed-race husband and wife duo, one of whom was living with a disability.

These historic tales of resilience and strength of character aims to show some of the journeys that these individuals took, shaping equal rights today.

The exhibition is on until 10 September 2022.