New Exhibition Showcases Shakespeare’s Influence in South Asia

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is launching a new exhibition celebrating the vibrant cultural responses to Shakespeare across South Asia. From 26 May – 8 September, Shakespeare in South Asia offers a glimpse of South Asia’s fascination with Shakespeare, and his enduring influence on the cultures and lives of its people.

Working in collaboration with students from Birmingham City University’s School of English, the exhibition takes visitors on a visual tour of each of the eight countries that make up South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) offering an intriguing snapshot into each country’s relationship with Shakespeare and how they have made him part of their own evolving history.  

Elizabeth Dollimore, Informal Learning and Programmes Manager at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said, “We are delighted to be producing this exhibition as part of our programme showcasing our theme of Crossing Borders. 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. The exhibition will explore Shakespeare as the international figure who crossed borders and explored issues that are relevant even today.”

Content curator, Dr Islam Issa, who is Academic Advisor to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and Lecturer in English Literature at Birmingham City University, said: “This exhibition doesn’t 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. 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.

“Curating the content for this exhibition has been a pleasure, particularly as the six BCU students who took on the role of Curating Assistants managed to find some fascinating and varied narratives and visuals. They’ve also learnt a range of skills in the process, not least the importance and thrill of public engagement.”

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.  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.

Other programme highlights include:

3 June, 6.30pm

Screening of Rahm (Tickets £8)

The Shakespeare Centre, Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon  

A Sufi adaptation of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, Rahm (Translated as ‘mercy’ in Urdu and Arabic) explores the story of justice, tolerance and forgiveness crossing national and cultural boundaries. Filmed in Lahore and with English subtitles, Rahm premiered at the London Asian Film Festival earlier this year where it won Best Adapted Screenplay. Don’t miss this special screening, followed by a Q&A with Director, Ahmed Jamal.

17 June (12.30pm) & 20 June (1pm)

Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon

Live traditional Indian dancing from visiting students from BD Somani International School in Mumbai.

15 July, 5.30pm

Bhangra Dance Workshop (Tickets £8)

Shakespeare Centre, Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon

An energetic workshop from In2Cultures where you can have a go at traditional Bhangra dancing to a background of live drumming on the Dhol. You’ll also learn about the history of this exuberant folk dance originating from Punjab in Northern India. 

22 July – 26 August

Destination Shakespeare: Creative Installation of The Tempest, South Asian-style

Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon

Get your creative juices flowing and help design a South Asian-inspired performance space based on The Tempest in the gardens of Shakespeare’s Birthplace. Working in collaboration with artists from the Sonia Sabri Company, visitors are invited to create Rangoli-designed waves across the garden using a range of colourful materials, setting the scene for a special performance of The Tempest on 26th August featuring in-house actors, Shakespeare Aloud.

For more information and to plan your visit, see

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