Maryam Wahid’s private view

Maryam Wahid’s photographs from the show, Author’s own image (2022)

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It is funny how social media works and how connections are created. One day I was scrolling on Instagram and I liked a photograph taken by, Maryam Wahid who was recently awarded ‘Portrait of Britain 2021' by the British Journal of Photography. The next thing I know, Maryam direct messages me and invites me to her upcoming (then) private view at the Midlands Art Centre (MAC) on 4th February. The exhibition is titled Zaibunnisa, meaning ‘the beauty of women’ which refers to Maryam’s mother’s birth name (MAC 2022).

At the private view, I was excited to see Maryam’s work up close and better understand her exploration of her family history through her mother. Before all the speeches, visitors were able to spend time in the gallery engaging with Maryam’s work.

This was an incredibly spacious area which allowed for many people to view the frames without it feeling too crowded. With light touch wall text interpretation, I found Maryam’s video near the end of the exhibition very useful in contextualising this personal journey of self-discovery. Through this journey to Lahore, Pakistan Maryam documented her reconnections with family ties in an unknown landscape, guided through the lived experience of her mother. Some photographs of Maryam’s mother as a young woman was a window into her life, before becoming a parent.

Maryam Wahid’s photographs from the show, Author’s own image (2022)

Proving the compelling nature of photography as a medium of documentation. But also denoting the invisible changes in life between photos of the past and present. Maryam echos this by reminding us, ‘in the blink of an eye your life can be transformed’ (MAC, 2022).

Throughout the exhibition, Maryam refers to her grandparents and other family members she never met. Yet, I sensed Maryam’s connection to her family members in multiple ways. Such as photographs, stickers from her grandfather, her mother’s family home and other personal objects and the resting place of her grandparents. This made me ponder on how our association with ‘home’ shifts when the people we love are no longer present? How can we remain connected through physical spaces where we share individual memories? Maryam explores this through the lens of situating herself in an alternative life if her mother had not moved to the UK. Maryam engaged with this experimental hypothesis inspired by the lives of women around her. I wonder how many of us have also considered the course of life in this way? And what other ways could this personal notion be explored?

Maryam Wahid’s photographs from the show, Author’s own image (2022)

In essence, Maryam’s documentation of her family history stretching from India’s partition to her life in Birmingham was a truly beautiful visual history. The questions and conversations around borders and belonging evoke so many unique emotions that can sometimes only be explained through the co-narration of people’s lived experiences. Maryam gained that first-hand intimate sense of belonging with a country, space or home which was initially unfamiliar. Yet, through her travels to Pakistan, I felt this search strengthen her ties to her heritage. I am so glad Maryam decided to capture part of her families story in this visual way.

At this point, I want to close on giving people their flowers, echoing a point made by the Director of MAC. I believe it is crucial to support artists and the work they are doing now instead of waiting to see what they become. They are already here, let’s celebrate that. I think the idea of waiting for someone to be ‘established’ puts artists in such a precarious situation. And possibly rids the world of critical interventions, viewpoints and curiosity because some artists struggle to access the support they need to develop. I am so happy to see Maryam’s art celebrated and platformed in her first major exhibition in her home city. I cannot wait to see where Maryam goes from here…

If you able to head to Birmingham, do pop down to Maryam’s show which is on until Monday 18th April 2022!

Maryam Wahid (b.1995) is a British-Pakistani Muslim Photographer based in Birmingham, UK. Maryam’s work centres on womanhood, a sense of belonging, migration and memory.

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Lisa @Heritage_io

Hi I’m Lisa | Based in Brum, UK | Curator | Blogging to challenge the idea that history, art, culture and heritage is irrelevant| Twitter & IG: @heritage_io