Freedom 50 – New Outdoor Exhibition Opens in Birmingham’s Centenary Square

A new outdoor exhibition showcasing photographs taken over the last five decades will open in Birmingham’s Centenary Square tomorrow, Saturday 22 May. Organised by Legacy West Midlands in collaboration with Birmingham Museums Trust, Freedom 50 celebrates 50 years of Bangladeshi independence and will be on display until the end of August 2021.

The Freedom 50 exhibition presents 40 evocative images of protest, self-determination and emigration.  It includes images taken during the 1971 war in Bangladesh, and the protest that followed within the UK. Iconic images from the legendary Bangladeshi photographer Naib Uddin Ahmed are featured, as well as striking images taken by other professional and emerging photographers. Visitors to the free exhibition will also be able to learn about Bangladesh’s recent history and the settlement of Bangladeshi people in the UK via accompanying display panels.

In January 2021, Legacy West Midlands held an international open call-out for photographs for this exhibition.  A host of great photographs were submitted from professional and amateur photographers in the UK and Bangladesh with the final photos selected by a steering committee that included representatives from arts organisations in Birmingham.

Aftab Rahman, Director at Legacy West Midlands said:

“The response to our international call-out for photographs that could tell the story of 50 years of Bangladeshi independence was incredible with so many evocative and vibrant images submitted from both the UK and Bangladesh.

“The Freedom 50 exhibition has been an emotional journey for me, because of my Bangladeshi heritage.  Creating the exhibition has allowed me to learn and reflect on the birth of Bangladesh. Using photography from the past and present has allowed us to appreciate the journey Bangladesh has had through the decades and the footprint of British Bangladeshi’s in the UK exemplifies a migrant journey that has not always been smooth

“We are delighted that, in collaboration with Birmingham Museums Trust, we are now able to share these remarkable images and the story of a young nation via a free outdoor exhibition.”

Rebecca Bridgman, Curatorial and Collections Manager at Birmingham Museums Trust said:

“We are pleased to have collaborated with Legacy WM to bring this unique outdoor exhibition to one of Birmingham’s largest public squares. The Forward 50 exhibition shines a light on Bangladeshi history, people and landscapes in a series of powerful and evocative images.”

This is the first exhibition by Birmingham Museums Trust using new solar powered outdoor exhibition equipment.

The Freedom 50 exhibition forms part of a wider national initiative, combining a wide range of events and exhibitions, showcasing Bangladeshi culture during this important year.  During the Freedom 50 programme, key events leading up to Bangladeshi independence 1971 will be recognised, along with the role of British Bangladeshis at the time. The programme will include 50 blogs called ‘Kee Khobor’, a national bike ride, a special version of the annual Nowka Bais boat race, arts and sporting events, a theatre production, a gala dinner and much more.

The Freedom 50 exhibition is organised by Legacy WM in collaboration with Birmingham Museums Trust with support from Arts Council England’s Cultural Recovery Fund, Birmingham City Council and Birmingham Rep.

The Freedom 50 exhibition is free to visit in Centenary Square, Birmingham B1 from 22 May until the end of August 2021.