Auspicious Journey head for Black Country canals

Ikon waterways venture to tell story of Kashmir immigration.

Ikon’s Black Country Voyages (2014–2017) is an art programme for local people, involving members of the Ikon Youth Programme. It takes place on board a canal boat, lent by Sandwell Council.

For 2016, Mahtab Hussain is the lead artist for Black Country Voyages, converting the boat into The Auspicious Journey, a story of mass displacement of people in Kashmir, Pakistan in the 1960s due to the construction of the Mangla Dam. This led to the establishment of new communities in the Black Country.

The construction of the Mangla Dam, across the Jhelum River, between 1961 and 1967, resulted in over 280 villages and towns of Mirpur and Dadyal being submerged and over 110,000 people being displaced. Some of those affected were given work permits for Britain by the Government of Pakistan, with many making their way to find work in the Midlands or the North West. The canal system was the bloodline of industry for the Black Country and it was here many migrants came to find work.

Working with clay and traditional photography, Hussain will make work about people affected by the dam construction. He places emphasis on water as the common denominator – the community was displaced by water, transported by water from Pakistan, and employed to work with water.

Mahtab Hussain would like to speak to people who have moved to the Black Country as a result of the Mangla Dam construction or whose family was affected in some way. He is keen to record and share their stories, and to take photographic portraits which will become part of his work with Black Country Voyages. If you or anyone you know has a story to share please contact Claire Bird, Learning Co-ordinator, Young People’s Programme, on 0121 248 0708 or email c.bird@ikon-gallery.org

During the summer Hussain hosts creative workshops for visitors to interact with Black Country Voyages. The events include the Sandwell and Birmingham Mela, Smethwick (Saturday 16th & Sunday 17th July); a week-long series of free clay workshops in Small Heath (Saturday 23rd-Friday 29th July); Birmingham Mela, Cannon Hill Park (Sunday 31st July); and an Instameet, Brindleyplace (Saturday 6th August). In addition Black Country Voyages attends a number of canal festivals and events over the summer.

During 2014-2017 Black Country Voyages navigates canal routes connecting Oldbury, Smethwick, Stourbridge, Walsall, Tipton, Dudley, Wolverhampton and Wednesbury. The programme includes events and exhibitions at multiple locations along the way inspired by the heritage and natural environment of the Black Country, organised in collaboration with local arts, heritage and educational organisations. Black Country Voyages is supported by Arts Council Strategic Touring, Canal & River Trust and Sandwell Council.

For more information visit www.blackcountryvoyages.org or call Ikon on 0121 248 0708. Facebook: blackcountryvoyages Twitter: @bcvoyages #blackcountryvoyages