Too Rich a Soil
Arpita Shah, Maryam Wahid, Nilupa Yasmin

Arpita Shah, Chunni' Purdah - The Sacred Cloth,
© Arpita Shah

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




Weaving Workshop with Nilupa Yasmin

Saturday 11 April 2020, 1.30-4.30pm 

Age 12 years and over

£15 (£10 concessions)


Join artist Nilupa Yasmin for an introduction to her practice and the history of weaving; then try your hand at weaving your own pieces using strips of photographic paper.


Book via the Gallery Reception Desk in person or on 01922 654400



Decolonising the Gaze

Friday 27 March 2020, 2-5pm, The New Art Gallery Walsall, £3 

In light of the developing situation with COVID-19, GRAIN Projects have postponed all front facing events until further notice. Tickets will be refunded.


GRAIN Projects & The New Art Gallery Walsall will host an afternoon of talks and a panel discussion with artists Arpita Shah, Maryam Wahid and Nilupa Yasmin. The artists will speak about their practices and shared themes that surround their work such as identity, culture and heritage. The event will be chaired by artist, academic and writer Caroline Malloy.


Ticketed event, booking required

  • Book via The New Art Gallery Reception Desk, in person or on 01922 654400 or via Eventbrite