In the spring of 2022, I was invited to participate in the Empowered Adornment project as part of the British History Makers exhibition at Derby Museums. The goal of the project produced by jewellery designer and artist; Anisha Parmar, was to celebrate culturally diverse women of Derby and increase representation, through group discussions about adornment and identity. The project culminated in a reclaiming photoshoot in the World Collections Gallery with objects that have links to empire & colonialism.
Over the course of the project, a number of deep discussions took place at the museum. We were asked to share our thoughts on the colonisation of the countries of our heritage, mine being Pakistan and formally Hindustan (India). Personally, this pushed me to challenge my own limited knowledge on the subject as I'd always romanticised the British 'Raj'. Having been to Delhi and visited some of the buildings left by empire, I had thought of the British as the ones who'd bought this beauty to India as opposed to them having taken from the country.
We were then asked to select objects we felt a resonance to. I was drawn to those objects that had ties to my Islamic roots. One of the objects I chose was a beautiful necklace thought to be from the Middle East or North Africa in the 19th century. It's metal discs were inscribed in Arabic with the words 'in the gathering of love' and ‘find your destiny'. This gave me goose bumps the first time I learned it. The other object, which I thought was a Middle Eastern Oud (guitar like string instrument), was in fact made in Dublin, Ireland. Showing just how closely cultures can cross over.
Collaboratively, with Anisha and photographers; Chevy and Sofia, we talked about how we would want to bring life to the objects in our own unique ways. The below vision board is my inspiration for the shoot.
The project finally resulted in this beautiful photoshoot set within the World Collections gallery. Anisha styled the background whilst Chevy and Sofia took the photo's. I chose my outfit as well as the objects.
I feel so grateful to have been a part of this project in so many ways. Firstly, because by giving such opportunities to artists from minority backgrounds, I feel that the city in which I was born is opening up to and 'seeing' the diverse communities within it. The shared experience gave birth to a beautiful community of strong, unique individuals who are unafraid to be who they are
It was a privilege to work with talented artists who are committed to creating social change through art and beauty. And finally, the collaborative nature in which this project developed meant I personally felt fully 'seen' and 'heard'.
Project production and photography:
Derby Museums and Artfund