Ikon Black Country Voyages

The Auspicious Journey in Small Heath

Saturday 23- Friday 29 July

For Mahtab Hussain’s first week on the boat we moored the boat up at Ackers Adventure in Small Heath. This was an area that Mahtab was confident he would meet people affected by the construction of the Dam. He had already made contacts and knew that this would be a crucial area for the project.

During the week we invited members of the public onto the boat to create miniature clay houses, representative of the traditional housing found in Pakistan. People of all ages attended the workshop and took up the opportunity to discuss the project with Mahtab. We met people who had been directly impacted by the construction of the Mangla Dam in the 1960’s in Kashmir, Pakistan. We met a father whose daughter was born in a clay house in Pakistan similar to those we were making, that is no longer standing as it has now been flooded by the Dam. This man now returns annually to the location to show his daughter her birth place. I also met a lady whose father’s grave is no longer accessible due to the construction of the dam, but she still visits. It was a very emotional time for everyone on the boat, listening to people’s stories and realising the human impact the construction of the dam has had.

Alongside the clay houses, Mahtab was also producing tintype portraits of people affected/displaced by the dam. The process is uncontrollable at times and relies on a lot of trial and error, but the final outcomes are emotive and powerful. This particular process brings out the red pigment in skin tone and leaves imperfections on the surface. The boat is fitted out with a small but fully functional dark room, that allowed Mahtab to create the portraits in front of the visitors, which becomes part of a performance.

This week was a huge success and was a great starting point to Mahtab’s project. We are now looking forward to and planning our next week of workshops.

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