Manchester Museum will take on a whole new life this Saturday as it becomes the scene for a colourful Saturday night in a Congolese village, the resurrection of a Mesopotamian Goddess of love and a day of family fun.

The museum will host Flying Carpets, a vibrant, free, family event on Saturday 7 October 2017.  The event will see three female artists whose lives have been re-routed by war, intolerance and persecution bring their histories, cultural traditions and aspirations to transform the public spaces of Manchester Museum.

Flying Carpets is a new commission as part of the national Journeys Festival International and is the result of Community Arts North West working alongside the museum to offer Iranian and Congolese artists access to the museum’s collection, then supporting the development of ideas that unravelled from their encounters.

During the site-specific work, three performances linked by storytelling and music show a new way to experience the museum.  They promise a glimpse into diverse cultural histories and the relationship between Museum collections and Britain’s colonial past as seen through the eyes of three remarkable women from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iran.  The artistic team and Community Arts North West have worked closely with Manchester Museum to ensure that the performances work in context with the space, with the museum exhibits becoming a purposely-chosen stage.

What will be happening during Flying Carpets at Manchester Museum?

Flying Carpets centres around three site specific performances:

For more than a decade, the singer-songwriter, Emmanuela Yogolelo has called the UK her home after escaping violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In defiance of traditional culture which limited women’s freedom of speech, and as a means of creative expression, Congolese women use language contained, quite literally, within the fabrics they wear. Hidden codes and messages in clothing are commonplace on Congolese streets, such as of two birds flying out of a cage being a covert message to a woman’s spouse, saying: “You fly, I fly” or “If you don’t behave, don’t expect me to.” Popular in East African countries, a ‘Kanga’ fabric would hide messages within the pattern, allowing women to conduct conversations in secrecy.

Emmanuela’s response to fabrics seen in the museum’s Ancient Worlds Gallery is to bring the vibrancy of a Saturday night in a Congolese town to Manchester setting the Gallery alight with dancing, music and the colourful, communicative fabrics of her homeland.

Manchester Museum hosts Flying Carpets

Manchester Museum hosts Flying Carpets

A former political journalist, Iranian artist, Fereshteh Mozaffari’s exile in the UK has seen her adapt her narrative and critical skills to creative writing and performance, studying at Salford University and performing as part of Manchester International Festival’s Festival in My House. For Flying Carpets, Mozaffari reflects on the numerous treasures of archaeological exploration which reside, not only in Manchester Museum, but many others around the world and what they say about periods of Empire and colonisation at the time they were found and taken into western hands. A show of feminine strength from the ancient Middle East, Mozaffari creates a performance to raise Ishtar, the Mesopotamian Goddess of love, beauty, war, and political power.

Mahboobeh Rajabi is a digital artist whose theatre studies in Iran at the time of the 2009 uprising, forced her to leave her home country. Now practicing in Manchester and awarded a Jerwood Creative Fellowship, which led to working with Manchester International Festival, Rajabi’s poignant depiction of a professional-dancer-turned-refugee overwhelmed by language barriers and bureaucracy is purposely set in the museum’s much-loved Living Worlds Gallery. A grand, Victorian backdrop and home to a watching taxidermy collection, Rajabi’s work paints a portrait of a dancer, whose profession is banned in her native Iran, trapped between inflexible UK bureaucracy and her desire for freedom and self-expression.

Her performance breaks from drama into expressive movement and animation alongside music performed by a lone setar player, illuminating this traditional museum space in a surprising and innovative way.

When does Flying Carpets take place at Manchester Museum?

Flying Carpets takes place at Manchester Museum on Saturday 7 October 2017 at 11.30am/1pm/3pm.  Entry is free.  Flying Carpets forms part of the wider Journeys Festival International.