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Manchester Art Gallery presents In Translation. Women, Migration and Britishness

Manchester Art Gallery presents In Translation. Women, Migration and Britishness, an exhibition on view through Saturday 23 February 2013.

Empire Marketing Board Poster Manchester Art Gallery

This exhibition is part of a major project working with women who have migrated to the North-West of England from all over the world. The women, drawn from a range of diverse backgrounds, are working with artists’ collective UHC (Ultimate Holding Company) to co-curate a display featuring and inspired by Manchester City Galleries’ collection of Empire Marketing Board Posters.

These posters were produced by the Empire Marketing Board, a promotional body set up by the British government in 1926. They are large, colourful lithographic prints, which are now regarded as a rare example of peace time government propaganda. Each set of posters promotes a way of thinking about the Empire – for example, as an eager market for British exports, or as a bounteous source of produce for the British tea table. Any darker ideas of ruthless colonial domination were kept at bay by the sheer brilliance of the posters. The poster campaign ran nationwide on Britain’s streets from 1926 to 1933.

In 1933, Manchester Art Gallery acquired 222 individual posters for the Gallery’s Industrial Art Collection. The posters did not see the light of day again until the 1990s. Perhaps this was because people were uncomfortable with the version of Empire that they promoted.

As with any cultural material, however, their meaning has changed over time and the poster collection today is subject to quite different readings from those originally intended. Now the Sunshine and Europia women’s groups at Wai Yin, the Cumbria Multicultural Women’s Network, and UHC, are working together with staff at Manchester Art Gallery to look at these posters in a critical and creative light. They will create a display of a selection of the posters together with the women’s own interpretative artwork. –

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