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Divided Selves: Legacies, Memories, Belonging

Our first exhibition for 2023 explores ideas of community, belonging and collective identity.

A photograph of a section of Bloodlines (1997) by Iftikhar Dadi & Nalini Malani, showing a line of red sequins intersecting a panel covered in gold and blue sequins.
Image: Detail from Bloodlines (1997) by Iftikhar Dadi & Nalini Malani, Herbert Art Gallery & Museum Collection

Drop in | FREE | Part Two launching Sat 10 June

Curated by Hammad Nasar MBE with Rosie Addenbrooke and Alice Swatton

Divided Selves explores notions of belonging and living together at a time when the idea of nation is under stress, threatened by challenges ranging from populism to armed conflict. 

Held at a time where the politics of identity have been weaponised for political gain, and divisiveness is rewarded in likes, followers and votes, it presents the work of artists exploring how we:

  • Make peace with difficult histories and traumatic pasts without being paralysed by them
  • Listen to and amplify voices that are often ignored or suppressed
  • Work as citizens of a state, and members of a community, to shape a common future

Divided Selves is presented across four galleries. In the first, the works explore the process by which war and geo-politics have divided the earth into nation states, whose stability is increasingly at risk through war and oppression of ethnic minorities. Historic anniversaries of partitions and the often-violent birth of nations remind us of their fragility.

In the second gallery, artists engage with ideas of nation, not through lines and borders, but through the idea of 'imagined communities' put forward by political scientist Benedict Anderson, focusing on our shared stories, histories and cultural narratives. These works explore how this idea is under threat from digital technologies, unchecked capitalism and rising ethno-nationalism, and consider the resilience we find in hopeful acts of everyday living.

The remaining two galleries bring these separate but overlapping ideas of collective identity together in large-scale, immersive works. Over the course of this exhibition, these two galleries will change to present works that are being shown in Coventry – and some in the UK – for the first time.

Divided Selves includes works from the Herbert’s ‘Peace and Reconciliation’ collection and loans from the British Council Collection alongside new commissions and works borrowed directly from artists and their galleries. It also marks the development of the National Collections Centre in Coventry, which will house works from the Herbert and British Council collections, among others. 

Featured artists include: Larry Achiampong, Said Adrus, Array Collective, Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press,* Flo Brooks, Sophie Ernst, Gordon Cheung, Iftikhar Dadi & Nalini Malani, Richard Hamilton, Mona Hatoum, Aziz Hazara, Lubaina Himid, Sofia Karim, Peter Kennard, Delaine Le Bas, Goshka Macuga, Rene Matić, Chloe Dewe Mathews, Hetain Patel, Michael Peel, Jamal Penjweny, Abbas Zahedi, Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings, Donald Rodney and Jane & Louise Wilson.
*Artists featuing in the exhibition until 10th June

New artists/work for Part Two: Bani Abidi (installation at Coventry Cathedral until 27 Jul), Aziz Hazara (new video installation), Peter Kennard (part two of photo collection), Hetain Patel.


Divided Selves Programme:


Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press: In Conversation with Hammad Nasar MBE
22 April | View Talk Here

On 22nd April 2023, Artist Fiona Banner was in conversation with curator and writer Hammad Nasar MBE, discussing their work and its related themes including flight, sound, ecology and the landscape.

Fiona Banner is a Turner Prize nominee from Merseyside who explores gender and language through the medium of drawing, sculpture, performance and the moving image.

Her work has been on display throughout the UK and worldwide: Explore more about her work and exhibitions.

Image: Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press, Pranayama Organ, 2021. Installation view Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, 2022. Taken by Garry Jones.


Divided Selves: Workshops

13 May - 16 September

Postcard of Resolution | Find out more


Postcards of resolution are postcards of promises and conviction to your future self.

We will be writing and creating bright and vibrant postcards that will be sent to your address in the UK in response to the Divided Selves exhibition.

Zine Making | Find out more


Divided Selves zine making is a workshop that will introduce the concept of DIY publications called a zine. A zine is a handmade booklet, usually an 8-page publication that can be made at home or sent to a printer. In this workshop you will learn to make your own, in response to the Divided Selves exhibition.

Divided Selves: Community Flags Project
2 June - 24 September

FREE |Drop in | Find out more

A collection of flags created by community groups using Larry Achiampong’s work as inspiration.

The flags displayed here have been created by community groups using Larry’s symbols as inspiration and only four colours. The groups designed a hand-stitched flag to represent them, their identity, ideas and hopes for the future.

Larry’s work in Divided Selves is one of a series of four imagined flags he made to represent the 54 countries of Africa, should they join
to form a large single system.


Divided Selves: Memorial to Lost Words | Bani Abidi
10 June - 27 July

Image: Reel Master Production

FREE |Drop in | Find out more

Part of Divided Selves Part Two, Memorial to Lost Words is an audio installation with hand typed letters by artist Bani Abidi.

The work will be on displayed at the Coventry Cathedral from Sat 10 Jun to Thu 27 Jul.

Divided Selves: BSL Tour With Olivier Jamin
17 June & 2 September

Image: Garry Jones

Free | Drop in & Ticketed* | Find out more

Join artist Olivier Jamin for a deaf-led BSL tour of the 'Divided Selves: Legacies, Memories, Belonging' exhibition, offering insight into the artworks from a deaf artist's perspective.


Divided Selves: Whose City? - Walking Tour
29 July

FREE | Ticketed | Find out more

This walking tour will consider the contested nature of public space in relation to works of post-war public art.