In rapper Riz Ahmed's The Long Goodbye, we hear of an unapologetic account of what it means to be brown and British in the wake of Brexit and the rise of the far-right in the UK. Now, Manchester International Festival (MIF) along with inclusive platform Fuse have commissioned four local artists to create responses to the acclaimed album.
Graphic designer Jaheed Hussain (also the founder of Fuse), designer Urooj Ahmad, photographer Saidul Choudhury and photographer Grace Maisiri all posed the question, 'How did we get here?', and developed a series of photography, illustration and collage works that range from symbolic and surrealist imagery of identity to visual representations of the very real fear of racial attacks and the West's appropriation of South Asian culture.
"When we support internationally established artists like Riz Ahmed we're always interested in how the artist and the work can intersect with and inspire the creativity of artists in Manchester and Greater Manchester," says Mark Ball, MIF's creative director. "These vivid visual responses to The Long Goodbye speak powerfully to the issues of belonging, migration and identity in Riz's work and illustrate the depth of creative talent here."
Speaking of his contribution, Jaheed Hussain says: "The cultural significance of the project resonated with me massively, being a child of immigrants and being of Asian-British Bangladeshi heritage. I was born in Oldham, Greater Manchester and its home. However, my genetic roots are from a whole different country. My collages represent 'belonging' and a representation of introspective conversations I've had with myself about where I'm from.
"The Long Goodbye talks about feeling unwelcome in the UK, despite being born here, because of our cultural identity. To me, our identities belong in several places at once, despite where we may be right now & where we came from and that's what I wanted to capture."
Urooj Ahmad series of illustrations give us a flavour of fused cultures and history: "Growing up South Asian in Western society was very difficult and the older I got the harder it was to find the balance where I fit in both places. This series depicts the deep history embedded within my South Asian roots, portraying the reality of the diaspora and what many of us have to go through on a daily basis."
Of her work, Saidul Choudhury adds: "I was interested in doing this project because living in Manchester within my own community I felt safe, but once I had to start travelling out of the area for other commitments and work, I noticed how low my confidence was, particularly while commuting. When something major has happened in the news in the name of my religion is when I've felt the lowest and judged as though many were confronting me with their eyes, but as I've become an adult and outgrown my fears I feel normal and know I'll always be part of my city no matter what."
Photographer Grace Maisiri, meanwhile tells us that: "No matter who you are or where you come from, home is where the heart is. Home is where you feel safe and are able to expand your roots. From Africa to the United Kingdom, this planet is home, and it doesn't matter what you look like, where you are from or what you do as long as you put a stamp on this planet with love in your heart."