William Shakespeare’s relationship with South Asian countries, including India, is being showcased in an exhibition in the UK, which offers a glimpse into the bard’s enduring influence on the cultures and lives of the people. The exhibition takes visitors on a visual tour of each of the eight countries that make up South Asia – India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka – offering an intriguing snapshot into each country’s relationship with Shakespeare and how they have made him a part of their own evolving history.
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is organising the exhibition, which will be on till September 8, in collaboration with Birmingham City University in the UK. “Shakespeare’s works have a long and complex relationship with South Asia, a relationship which has sometimes been tested by the colonial context but which has been the root of extraordinary artistic and intellectual energy,” Elizabeth Dollimore, from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said. “The exhibition will explore Shakespeare as the international figure who crossed borders and explored issues that are relevant even today,” said Dollimore.
Visitors can listen to original music composed by artists including beat-boxer Jason Singh, Ranjana Ghatak and composer Mathew Forbes, each taking inspiration from Shakespeare’s works with an Asian twist. Musicians from the Birmingham Conservatoire will also explore the relationships between Shakespeare and India in “My Heavenly Jewel,” a classical piece inspired by Shakespearian and modern Indian romance. “This exhibition does not just showcase Shakespeare’s reach, but also tells us that different cultures around the world can interpret and use Shakespeare in ways we might not expect,” said Islam Issa, from Birmingham City University.
Given the overarching contexts of British colonialism and influence in the region, it has been interesting to see the different ways in which performances in South Asia serve different purposes – from cultural to social to political. In celebration of South Asian music, the Trust has commissioned seven new musical compositions inspired by Shakespeare to complement the exhibition. The works cover a wide range of genres, some influenced by South Asia, and others with their roots in contemporary UK culture.