Too Rich a Soil brings together photographers, Arpita Shah, Maryam Wahid and Nilupa Yasmin whose practices are rooted in the exploration of cultural identity.
Through making work about and in collaboration with their families and communities, these artists celebrate the rich and varied roles of women in society. This exhibition provides an opportunity to expand upon narratives around the Asian diaspora and in particular the roles and identities of women.
A selection of works from Arpita Shah’s series Purdah – The Sacred Cloth presents contemporary women based in Scotland from a variety of South Asian backgrounds, who chose to practice traditions of head covering or veiling. Created in 2013 whilst artist in residence on the Albert Drive Project at Tramway, Glasgow, Shah collaborated with women living in the Pollokshields community, to make portraits of them wearing their sacred cloths. Accompanied by statements from the women in the portraits, transcribed in English, Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu and Arabic, the series seeks to enrich our understanding of the practice of purdah and redress common misconceptions around traditions of head covering and veiling.
Ek Aurat Ka Safar is a new body of work by Birmingham based photographer Maryam Wahid created in 2019 following the artist’s first visit to her familial home of Pakistan. Titled in Urdu, the country’s national language and used by the artist to interact with many of the women she met, the literal translation is A Woman’s Journey. The portraits selected by the Wahid for inclusion in this series include women with diverse occupations such as teacher, artisan, police officer, architect, conservation scientist, maid, lawyer, as well as school children. With this group of portraits which span generations, ethnic backgrounds, religions and social classes, the artist hopes to provide some insight into the breadth of women across contemporary Pakistani society and furthermore seeks to champion their contributions.
Nilupa Yasmin uses self-portraiture in her new series ফুলদানি – Phuldhani, a Bengali phrase which translates into English as Flowers in a Vase. Engaging with the historical tendency for women to be compared to flowers, Yasmin was particularly influenced by the 1792 essay ‘A vindication of the rights of women’, by English writer, philosopher and advocate of women’s rights, Mary Wollstonecraft, in which women are likened to flowers that are planted into ‘too rich a soil’ . With Phuldhani Yasmin explores the cultivation of women within society, but brings it into the 21st century, with herself, a young British Bangladeshi female as the subject. Densely layered and cleverly crafted by the artist, Yasmin presents the viewer with a challenge to navigate the resulting portraits, thereby maintaining a level of control as to how she, as the subject, may be viewed.
Arpita Shah, Purdah – The Sacred Cloth was commissioned by Tramway and Glas(s) Performance as part of the Albert Drive Project 2013 and first exhibited at Tramway Glasgow. Supported by Street Level Photoworks, Creative Scotland and Autograph ABP.
If you’ve visited the ‘Too Rich a Soil’ exhibition at The New Art Gallery Walsall, we’d appreciate your feedback. Please follow the link here to a brief ‘Impact & Insight’ survey – which shouldn’t take more than three minutes to complete. The answers you give help us measure visitor engagement and help us to shape future exhibitions.
Exhibition in partnership with Grain
Decolonising the Gaze – ONLINE SYMPOSIUM
Arpita Shah, Maryam Wahid, Nilupa Ysamin & Caroline Molloy
Thursday 10th September, 6-8pm
£3 (plus booking fee)
This session originally intended to be a face to face symposium has been rescheduled as an online event. Each artist will have the opportunity to share a selection of their practice and contribute to crucial conversations about the politics of representation. The event is organised by GRAIN in collaboration with the Gallery and will be chaired by academic Caroline Molloy. Places must be booked in advance and there is a small fee of £3 to attend.