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'In-between; journeys to India: liminal spaces, places and histories.'

In April 2007 I travelled to India to extend my background research for a new body of visual work.

This is based on the contemporary resonances of historic journeys to India taken by my genetic and adoptive ancestors in relation to my own later travels. I wanted to investigate the cultural diasporas experienced by my genetic great grandfather in 1858, my adoptive father in 1942 and my own in 2007/8. The journeys all relate to key moments in the relationship between England and India.

I gained some insight into the intercultural complexities of post colonial India through the people I met including artists,filmmakers,researchers conservation architects,    and naval commodores. The cross section of responses to the residues of British India and its legacy allowed me to reflect on my own position as an implicated outsider.

 

 

The Journeys

In 1858, at the end of the first war of independence, my birth ancestor, Edwin Wortley was apprenticed by the Marine Society to the Hon East India Company at 9 rupees a month. He arrived in Bombay in December 1858 and deserted from Bombay in 1862.

In 1942, at the height of the quit India movement, my adoptive father sailed into Bombay as a private in the British army. After a year in Calcutta he spent 1944 in and around Bombay before travelling overland to fight in Burma.

I have made two journeys to India. The first was overland as a student , the second in 2007 doing initial research for this project. The experiences and images from these two journeys are both similar and markedly different. There is a complex and ironic relationship between the earlier journey, when the attitudes to English women in India was still coloured by old colonial attitudes, to one taken in the year of the 60tth anniversary of independence, a much more self aware and politically complex time when the old order has a very different resonance.

This new consciousness is however played out against a backdrop of buildings and locations inherited from the imperial era. The whole notion of heritage in a city such as Mumbai
(Bombay) is problematised when much of its physical fabric acts as a reminder of the closeness of intertwined histories.

My journeys also relate to two different states of personal knowledge; one before and one after I was aware of being an adoptee.