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Alchemy 2014

Handpainted Type

The British Council today announced details of their design programme at Alchemy, Southbank Centre’s annual festival showcasing the best of music, dance, literature, comedy, fashion, art and design from the UK and South Asia. This is the fourth year that the British Council has worked with Southbank Centre during Alchemy and marks a ‘design takeover’ of the festival, with a range of exciting work in South Asian typography alongside free public events.

Highlights include:

Cartwheels in the Sky: The Evolution of Sri Lankan Visual Arts 
15 – 26 May, 10am – 11PM, Level 2 at Royal Festival Hall (free)

This unique interactive installation of rotating mandalas depicts the evolving and vibrant story of Sri Lankan visual arts, from ancient carvings to modern graphic design.

Using the traditional form of the mandala, Colombo-based artists’ collective Bang Bang, incuding artyists Sunara Jayamanne, Ruwangi Amarasinghe and Andre Periera, celebrate both individual expression and collective creativity through their playful and striking designs.

Circular in form, mandalas convey a sense of wholeness, suggesting that there is a centre within each of us, which is itself a source of energy and power. In this installation, each element is connected to another and the whole would be unable to function without each individual part.

An earlier mandala installation was commissioned by the British Council in Colombo for their building, and this second installation continues the story and brings this unique art to a UK audience.


The Citizens Archive of Pakistan
Level 2 Blue Side at the Royal Festival Hall, 10am – 11pm (free)

Through a wealth of personal stories, memories and objects discover an ever-evolving Pakistani identity from partition to present day in this multimedia exhibition from The Citizens Archive of Pakistan.  Memories and images relating to the building of a nation reveal a range of critical perspectives on what it means to revisit this history today.  Throughout the festival we invite you to contribute your own memories and photographs.

The Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to cultural and historic preservation and educational outreach, operating in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

Throughout the festival we invite you to contribute your own memories and photographs, and you can email us at

Exhibition is designed and curated by Onkar Kular and Sanam Maher (Director Interactive Projects, the Citizens Archive of Pakistan).


Typerventions by Kriti Monga 
15 – 26 May 2014, 10am – 11pm, Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer (free)

A playful and experimental typography artwork by Kriti Monga, reflecting the spirit of India and London and responding to the themes of Alchemy

Kriti Monga’s ‘typerventions’ began as a design and public art experiment in New Delhi in 2011, crafting letters from everyday materials to spell meaningful messages in the city’s public spaces.  Projects have since taken place in other cities across India as well as a student workshop in Mexico City.  Look out for Alchemy inspired typerventions popping up across the Southbank Centre site.

Kriti Monga is the founder and Design Director of Turmeric Design, a New Delhi-based studio.  As well as her larger design projects, she has become known for her graphic artwork including custom hand-drawn diaries.  In 2010 she was one of Delhi’s ’20 Under 35’ shortlisted designers.


No Straight Lines, Academy of Design, Colombo  
15 – 26 May 2014, 10am – 11pm, Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer (free)

A showcase of innovative typography projects from the Academy of Design, Colombo.  Effective typography connects people, and creates a platform for language and communication.  With increasing computer literacy in Sri Lanka, more people seek to see their native language on the screen, yet the choice of digital typefaces is limited and often poorly designed.  Within this context, contemporary typographic experimentation is in great demand, and the Graphic Design Department at the Academy of Design in Colombo is playing a leading role in researching, experimenting and developing contemporary Sri Lankan typography and graphic design.  Highlights from this on-gong project are presented as an exhibition and a day of workshops. Read more about developments in Sri Lankan typography here


Handpainted Type, Hanif Kureshi and Painter Shabbu 
15 – 26 May 2014, 10am – 11pm, Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer (free)

Artist Hanif Kureshi and Painter Shabbu collaborate to create a unique graphic artwork inspired by the vernacular street typography of India.

Hanif Kureshi is an independent designer and artist based in Delhi and working with type and typography on different media and scales. His current project, Handpainted Type (, is dedicated to preserving the typographic practice of street painters around India and representing diverse technologies of graphic design in India. His work has been exhibited internationally, including the Venice Biennale and the Centre Pompidou Paris. He is also co-founder of India’s first ever street art festival,

Painter Shabbu (Akhlaq Ahmad) ran away from home as a teenager from his village in UP. Selling tea on the road in Bombay outside the Alfred Cinema, he ended up assisting their bollywood sign painters. He came back to Delhi and worked with famous cinema hoarding studios, till digital technology killed their craft. Shabbu did juice stand signs for a living and is now doing a degree in painting at Jamia Milia Islamia. He has painted more than one thousand boards around Delhi. His work captures the vibrancy of the popular visual culture of our streets in an explosion of colour.


UnBox Labs: Future Cities - A Discussion
Thursday 22 May, Sunley Pavilion 6pm

UnBox Labs 2014 brought together creatives and researchers from the UK and India to explore the future of our cities. Hosted at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India the Labs provided a space for experts from the fields of design, architecture, data visualisation and interactive arts to exchange ideas and develop new prototypes that challenge the way we use our urban spaces.

Join us for a stimulating discussion with some of the UnBox participants and mentors to explore new thinking and approaches to future cities.  The discussion will be chaired by Beatrice Pembroke, Director of the Creative Economy at the British Council.

UnBox Labs 2014 were developed by the British Council, UnBox, AHRC and REACT.


Sign Painting Workshop with Painter Shabbu and Hanif Kureshi
Saturday 17 May, 12-2pm & 3-5pm (free but ticketed)

Join Painter Shabbu and Hanif Kureshi to create your very own hand-painted sign.


Typography Workshop with the Academy of Design, Colombo
Saturday 17 May, drop in between 12-5pm (free)

Play the alphabet game in workshops run by the Academy of Design, Colombo, and make as many words as possible with characters from different alphabets.


Typography Workshop with Kriti Monga
Saturday 24 May, 12-1pm, 2-3pm, 4-5pm (free)

Join designer Kriti Monga to create your own ’typerventions’ and scribe Alchemy messages in a range of different materials.


Other design projects during Alchemy include: the Design Wallah pop-up shop featuring contemporary design from South Asia curated by Shake the Dust, a textile artwork installation by Siddhartha Das Studio, an installation by Oitij-jo in collaboration with Paraa titled Mapping Craft, Traditions and Urban Futures: A Bangladesh Story as well as workshops in Indian kite design and screen-printing inspired by truck art.

For full event details please visit: