Zellij Arts – Comtemporary Art on Manchester’s Famous Curry Mile

Zellij Arts – Contemporary Art on Manchester’s Famous Curry Mile

Zellij Arts
‘Guilty’, – Pencil, biro and gold leaf on paper (2015) image courtesy Lesley Halliwell

ZELLIJ ARTS may not be a name familiar to BeesBlogs readers, but its a name I think we will hear a lot more of in 2018. Zellij Arts is an artist led project founded in 2016 by artist and curator Elizabeth Kwant. (You will have seen Kwant’s work at the GM Arts Prize 2017 Exhibition and ‘In Nothing Flat’ , Studiobook 17 group exhibition at the Old Granada Studios ) Zellij Arts promotes the work of emerging artists working trans-nationally across geographic borders from the Middle East, Africa, Asia. For the past two years they have partnered with The Alexandria Library, a multi- cultural bookshop in the heart of Manchester’s famous Curry Mile where they operate a regular programme of temporary exhibitions and events connecting with the multi-cultural communities of Manchester


Zellij or Zillij is a term used for the intricate mosaic tile-work characteristic of Moroccan architecture. Zellij is composed of many small parts coming together to make the whole and over the past two years they have featured work by local and international artists such as Lucinda May (UK), Anjum Malik (Pakistan/ UK), George Sfougaras (Greece/ UK), Saffina Bhatti (Pakistan/ UK), Lori K. Gordon (Morocco/ USA), Rachel Pearsey (USA/ Morocco), Hazel Burns (UAE), Amang Mardokhy (Kurdistan/UK), Ashleigh Beattie (UK/ Zimbabwe), Ahmed ElHassan (UK/ Sudan), and Mohamad Khayata (Syria)

Zellij Arts next exhibition features Lesley Halliwell’s ‘Tilted Plane’. 2nd Feb – 21st April

Zellij Arts
‘Untitled’, Pencil and chalk on linen (2017). image courtesy Lesley Halliwell

Tilted Plane brings together a series of paintings and drawings inspired by pattern making from a range of cultural traditions and techniques. Ranging through Southern Indian kolams, Islamic geometry, Celtic design, manuscript illumination and even the 1970s children’s toy, the Spirograph, Halliwell finds underlying similarities and cross-overs. Her work returns to the simple and universal constructions based on the circle and the square but with fine line and delicate nuance of surface. These are works that reward close viewing. And the intimate space of the Alexandria Library bookshop allows viewers to get near to fully experience the work. In this series, patterning gets confounded by the reflectivity of the gilded surface of the drawings. And the viewer is drawn into the work as different viewpoints alter what can be seen. Drawings angled like pages of a book encourage “conversations” between images, and pose the question of how art should be viewed. What is our relationship to the page, the book?

Zellij Arts
‘Portal’ pencil, biro and silver leaf on paper (2000 & 2016) image courtsey Lesley Halliwell

Based in the North West, many readers will know of Halliwell’s work  both as a Director of Salford’s Suite Studio group and an exhibitor at Manchester’s Castlefield Gallery

Founder and Curator Elizabeth Kwant said: Zellij Arts exists to promote the work of early career artists from across the Middle East and diaspora, including work which touches on this region thematically (such as Lesley Halliwells intricate geometric studies on paper inspired by Islamic pattern making). Zellij also exists to build relationships with the local community in Rusholme, a very multi cultural area. Our audience ranges from doctors, students, to refugees who attend classes at the library. It’s very diverse, and this is something which I love as a curator. The library acts as a bridge between cultures and also a meeting place, where people feel welcomed. This in turn provides a fruitful place for dialogue surrounding the exhibitions. It brings the art alive. As a curator I much prefer this kind of engagement with the context of the work. We hope this partnership between Zellij and the library will be mutually beneficial, and engage people who wouldn’t normally enter a gallery space. 

Upcoming in 2018 we look forward to exhibitions by Mai Al Shazly (Egypt) and a partnership with Asia Triennial Manchester for their upcoming festival “Who do you think you are?” 



BeesBlogs wishes Elizabeth and The Alexandria Library every success in their new venture.