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Waterfront Festival

Art Exhibition Review: My Granddad’s Car at New Art Exchange

29 November 16 words: Shannon Challis-Smith

Follow the story of how two men - Sayed Hasan and Karl Ohiri - pursued the quest of moving two cars...

The titular cars originally belonged to their grandfathers, from Pakistan and Nigeria, to where both of them were born and now reside: in the UK. When viewing the multi-media exhibition however, it does not take long to realise that their task was not an easy one, and as one explores the way in which they transported the cars, it is recognisable to all regarding the great emotion and volume of importance that lies within the project, surrounding the heirlooms belonging to both families.

The first two photographs, the ones that are most likely to be seen as one initially enters the room, are framed, old, and shelved upon the wall, unlike any other piece within the space. Although the differences in race and culture can be seen within the two photos, they reflect the notion of the project as a whole and have a similarity about them. The men both look into the camera lens and into our own eyes with an air of power and authority. A level of understanding is made; they appear to be the head of the family, and it is only right their valuable possessions are returned to their grandsons.

Following directly from the side-by-side photographs of both artist’s Grandfather’s portraits are two photographs of Hasan and Ohiri presented alongside each other. Ohiri stands holding part of his grandfathers’ car which has been crushed into one square segment (you can see the visuals of this process taking place via video in the room) above his head, connoting poses of African culture, standing proud and strong; he has defeated the system and will be taking his Grandad’s car to his home country. The photograph beside this, ‘Calla’, shows the two friends united, enwreathed in a piece of fabric which was given to Ohiri by his Mother, now sadly deceased, the first time he attempted to retrieve the car. It is topped with a calla lily, native to Africa. Taken in the graveyard of Ohiri’s grandfather, it is a reminder of the motives of their task, a memorial to the deceased relatives, as well as a symbol of the unity created in order to succeed.

The physical presence of pieces of the cars are exhibited within the room, and allow one to hone in the reality of the success of Hasan and Ohiri’s work. Although the cars do not stand whole, tangible parts are there as a trophy and are presented as art for all to see, even if underlying it all, there is a tragedy in the full car’s absence, in both cases.

As one turns to leave the room, ‘Centrepiece’ can be seen central not only to the space, but also to the exhibition, and on the opposite side of that exact wall, stand the photographs of the Grandparents themselves. Hasan and Ohiri sit at a dinner table, eating food opposite one another. Two races, two cultures, and two histories have brought heirlooms to their current families’ new home country. They do not acknowledge one another, but as they eat in a manner known to most homes worldwide (at a dinner table), their presence’s are connected by the car remains between them. They are united by their ancestors who were in life strangers, but in death, united.

My Grandad's Car runs at New Art Exchange from Saturday 17 November - Saturday 31 December 2017

New Art Exchange website

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