Never set eyes on the Land
The title, takes its name from a line in W.H. Auden’s caustic poem, ‘Partition’, written 20 years after the boundary lines of the Sub-Continent were drawn up by a British civil servant.
Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, ‘Never set eyes on the Land’ brings together a multi-disciplinary team of leading artists, pre-eminent UK outdoor arts festivals, academics, specialists in participatory arts, heritage experts, archivists and educationalists, working towards a shared objective.
Nutkhut’s Defining Moments projects aim to mark significant historical anniversaries and moments in time which reflect on the rich and complex inter-relationship between Britain and South Asian communities. Never set eyes on the Land is the second in this series following the 2016 production of Dr Blighty exploring the story of wounded WW1 Indian soldiers who convalesced in the Royal Pavilion Brighton.
My grandfather’s rice bowl, the only surviving heirloom from Sargodha, the ancestral home and lands from which my father’s family lived for centuries, became the catalyst for this project. Seven metals were used to make this bowl… Iron, copper, zinc, brass, mercury, gold and silver, over 100 years old, it is a symbolic reminder of the past.I was struck by how little was known in the UK about this moment in history, which has shaped so many people’s lives and how little was being covered in our arts and heritage institutions. At the heart of this project is an ambition to bring this story to a wider public through personal testimony and individual stories.
Whilst growing up in London I was familiar with my family’s contribution to the Quit India movement, yet I was surrounded by the silence of Partition, the refugee status and the optimism and hope for the future. The silence spoke of the trauma and pain of this global event and I wanted to ensure that this period of history was not forgotten or swept under the carpet, like many aspects of British colonial history.
We opted for a broad creative approach, by asked ourselves questions about the future of museums, the future of the telling of history and embarked on a process of oral history interviews of partition survivors, the training of a new generation of volunteers, a traveling installation of a lived-in space to places where people naturally gather, a digitally animated film and finally an education toolkit for schools and colleges. We were clear from the onset, that the project should have meaning and speak to many.
The Partition of India in 1947 resulted in the largest mass migration in human history. 14 million Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians, and were displaced, lighting the fuse for a series of events that not only changed the Sub-Continent but also Britain forever. Partition carries a living legacy in the UK and across the world and this is one of the last opportunities to hear and learn directly from the generation who experienced this climatic upheaval.