Ikon Black Country Voyages

An Artist’s View – The Auspicious Journey

By Mahtab Hussain

I have been the lead artist for the Ikon’s Black Country Voyages 2016, converting Ikon’s canal boat into a vehicle for The Auspicious Journey. Throughout the year through my work, on-board workshops with the public and primary research conducted in Pakistan, I have been exploring the story of the construction of the Mangla Dam, across the Jhelum River in Pakistan. Between 1961 and 1967, over 280 villages and towns of Mirpur and Dadyal were submerged resulting in over 110,000 people being displaced, many of whom emigrated to the UK, finding work in the then thriving industry and canals of the Black Country.

For me this was a wonderful opportunity to be able to use a narrow boat as a studio space; I was able to convert part of the boat into a mobile darkroom, similar to darkroom carriages of the past. I created tin-type portraits, a wet plate process where you have a very limited time to create an image so it was very fitting to use a 17th century process as the boat complements this process. These are currently on display in Café Opus at Ikon.

Traveling across the canal system throughout the Black Country we were able to target audiences who would never have engaged with Ikon directly and it was a real pleasure for me to make that connecting with a project that specifically connected to their past.

Spending time in Kashmir, allowed the project to expand and develop in a variety of ways. I was able to make work around the Mangla Dam and see how traditional Kashmiri homes look and feel. The residency is now in its final phase, and I am tremendously excited to be able to create an installation piece of a traditional Kashmiri home titled Mitti Ka Ghar, which will be open to the public at Ikon from 25 October to 6 November. Small clay houses which have been made by people I have met through the on-board workshops throughout the summer will be shown inside the house as part of the work.  I hope that all those participants who have been involved with the project will come along to celebrate our collaborative efforts during the summer.

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