The Travelling Heritage Bureau of Displaced, International Women Artists, 2017 – 2019

PI: Dr Jenna C. Ashton

Funding Body: National Lottery Heritage Fund
Amount: £48,200

Collaborating Institutions: Digital Women’s Archive North [DWAN], Community Arts North West, Manchester Art Gallery, Whitworth Art Gallery, HOME Mcr, Zellij Arts, Alexandria Library Rusholme, Global Arts Manchester, and international women artists.

Summary

A group of women gathered in a circle

The Travelling Heritage Bureau is a co-research project and supportive network with and for international women artists based in the North West of England. The Bureau is a space of resistance, creativity and inclusion; a space for women artists including refugees, exiles, those seeking asylum and other migrant women with direct experiences of journeying or displacement.

The Bureau aims to ensure the arts practice and cultural heritage of international women visual artists are identified, documented and shared.

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project emerges in response to the demand for the archives and heritage sectors to be more fully engaged with the contemporary challenges that face collecting, curatorial practices and methods of documentation around cultural heritage and arts practice. Arts archives in the UK are dedicated to collecting and documenting British practitioners. However, many women artists, especially those who are migrants or from underrepresented backgrounds, fall through the gaps. We work to ensure that works, practices, methods and knowledge of those migrant practitioners are included within a broader narrative of British heritage (in-line with the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist, 1980, and 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.)

The Bureau has many strands to it in terms of activities and outputs for identifying, documenting and sharing, developed in collaboration with the 23 (and growing) women artists, and with Community Arts North West, HOME, Manchester Art Gallery, Zellij Arts, Global Arts Manchester, Sky Women’s Studio, Whitworth Art Gallery and with Alice Kettle and the Thread Bearing Witness project. 

Publications and other outputs

Exhibitions, writings, conversations, residencies, archives, sonic works, a film and photography – all come together across the project to demonstrate how arts practice and methods function as documentation and living memory.

View the website.

Following the Travelling Heritage Bureau project, a clear consensus emerged: BIPOC artists need space. The THB project developed a new archive of documentation and practice-based outputs from up to 26 women artists and laid the foundations for the group to evolve as a collective. The project also brought to the fore significant issues concerning representation, hierarchies and power structures – inside and outside the group.

Subsequently, the artists have founded the Centre for International Women Artists (CIWA) – a studio and gallery in Manchester. CIWA continues to evolve cultural practice, management and production methods through action research, led by Black and international women artists

  • An authored monograph on the project is in development.
  • Kumu Art Museum, Estonia. Invited Keynote for the conference, Women Artists 
in Baltic and Nordic Museums, March 2020.

Contact

Jenna.Ashton@manchester.ac.uk