My Granddad’s Car is an art project, but most importantly a personal endeavour. Our story has moved through Nigeria, Pakistan and England, affecting our families, friends and become part of our history.
I thought about bringing my granddad’s car to the UK for many years and decided the best time to do so would be when it retired from its long service in Pakistan. I wanted it to make a journey across the geographic and cultural divide that separated my life from the cars and desired to physically touch it in England.
When mentioning the idea to Karl – while sitting in a pub in New Cross – we chanced upon a coincidence which kick-started our collaboration. Karl had been contemplating his grandfather’s car too, after discovering it laying in ruin in his family village in Nigeria. We thought it poignant to combine our narratives and grew excited at the prospect of bringing our granddads’ cars together. This marked the beginning of the project.
After securing funding for our venture and organising the necessary steps to export the cars, Karl and I made our journeys. We understood that the experience would be challenging, but didn’t anticipate the events that transpired during our trips. In the short time we spent in Nigeria and Pakistan to oversee the shipment of the cars’, the course of the project radically changed. Both cars’ – a fragile Beetle shell and a beaten-up Toyota Corolla – were unable to leave their respective countries. Karl was tricked by a corrupt port official who decided to hold his car for ransom after it entered the shipping yard in Port Harcourt (where it remains to this day). As for my car, it became lost in a legal fiasco. The car remains the possession of my late grandfather and is unable to leave the country.
After our travels we were left deflated and uncertain about the direction of the project. Eventually however, we come to accept our failure as part of the creative process and a reflection of the unpredictability of everyday life.
It was a privilege to present a collection of our photography and video work at the Research Network in The Stuart Hall Library in December 2013. We especially took enjoyment from the discussion our project provoked. My Granddad’s Car is an on-going project, so gaining the perspectives of a critically engaged group helped us to think about our own project differently.
Many thanks to Sonia Hope and Roshini Kempadoo for their support.
For more information about the Stuart Hall Library Research Network and how to participate, email the Library.