Curated by Gabriella Daris, Building Desires showcases one part of an ongoing photographic project by Mahtab Hussain which explores the complexities of âidentity' and âself' within the contemporary British Pakistani community. The project focuses on a burgeoning internal conflict of identity projected by an agitated younger generation of British born Pakistani males. It considers the notion that this group is split between their immediate and traditional environment - an intricate system of cultural and religious practises which puts the collective whole first and the West's persuasive ideology of the individual. Existing between these two conflicting worlds, Hussain's images witness these young men's concept of individuality and masculinity, most prominently expressed through a âperformance' and show of âacting hard' and their attempt to break down society's stereotypical notions of a Pakistani male living in the West.
A flà ¢neur himself of his own clan, Mahtab Hussain penetrates the Asian gyms and streets of Birmingham, where his camera seeks to capture how these young Pakistani males are becoming men, while struggling with their own understanding of what a man should be within this conflict of being a traditional Pakistani, in a post-modern British town.
Through photography, he emphasizes a minority struggling to find voice and identity in the new hybrid eastern-western world. This minority group is as vulnerable and as mainstream as any other minority group which struggles with locality whilst also coping with the cosmopolitan nation's liminal perceptions-of-it being from elsewhere. Indeed, the artist believes that it is not only these young men that are in crisis, but the community as a whole. His photographs utter as it were, what the repressed Asian community keeps in silence.
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