11 February – 13 May 2012
Late winter and spring sees all the ground floor galleries at the Whitworth Gallery, Manchester, combining to tell a compelling story about the production, consumption and global trade in cotton. With exhibits ranging in date from the late Middle Ages to the present day, the exhibition takes in Lancashire and South Asia, the Americas and Africa and is the region’s flagship exhibition outcome of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad programme Stories of the World.
Cotton was the world’s first global commodity. At the heart of the exhibition are displays of fashion and textiles that examine Indias extensive global trade networks in cotton centuries before production shifted to Northern Europe, and the impact that cotton had on Western fashion, providing the catalyst for the Industrial Revolution. The displays also take a provocative look at cotton’s ‘dirty secrets’ – at its human and environmental impact – and at the pivotal political and economic role it has played in establishing national independence from colonial rule.
The fashion and textile displays engage in dialogue with the work of seven contemporary artists working in a range of disciplines whose work addresses one or more of the exhibition themes. They include Yinka Shonibare MBE, Lubaina Himid, Chicago-based Anne Wilson, Malian artists Abdoulaye Konat and Aboubakar Fofana, and Grace Ndiritu, while Liz Rideal‘s work illuminates the exterior of the building throughout the hours of darkness.
The exhibition also showcases the outcomes of a three-year programme of work with young people, taking the form of an interactive space for younger visitors.
See Kangas from the Lost Sample Book by Lubaina Himid for images and video from the exhibition