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A Woman’s Journey: Q&A with photographer Maryam Wahid

Maryam Wahid self-portrait

Birmingham-based artist and photographer Maryam Wahid is featured in the exhibition Too Rich a Soil launching at The New Art Gallery Walsall this week.

The exhibition includes a collection of portraits taken by Wahid during her research and development trip to Pakistan (her first visit there) earlier this year, funded by Transforming Narratives.

Her work, A Woman’s Journey, explores her own Pakistani heritage and the lives of the women she met on her visit who vary in their age, backgrounds and occupations and also includes schoolchildren.

The portraits are presented together with work by photographers, Arpita Shah and Nilupa Yasmin, whose practices are also rooted in the exploration of cultural identity.

Too Rich a Soil runs from 15 November — 19 April 2020 at The New Art Gallery Walsall.

What is your relationship with Pakistan and how was Transforming Narratives involved in your trip?

I am a British Pakistani artist and photographer based in Birmingham. Earlier this year in April, I visited Pakistan for the very first time as I was selected to do some research and development for the Transforming Narratives project.

What did your research trip involve?

My research focused on the female identity in Pakistan and I wanted to be able to speak to women from Lahore and Karachi and understand the role of women today in Pakistan and ultimately compare it British Pakistani women living in Birmingham. 

What works will you be displaying at The New Art Gallery and were some of these a result of the Pakistan visit?

For my research and development project, I spoke to young girls and women of all ages and from all kinds of socio- economic backgrounds to gather a greater understanding of what it means to be a woman in Pakistan today.

After speaking to and getting to know these women I also photographed them and created a series of portraits titled, Ek Aurat Ka Safar.

This title in Urdu means A Woman’s Journey in English. I will be showing these series of portraits at the New Art Walsall Gallery which will open officially to the public on the 14th November 6pm onwards. 

Above image: A portrait taken by Maryam Wahid on her R&D trip to Pakistan funded by Transforming Narratives that will be on display at The New Art Gallery Walsall until April 2020

How would you describe the experience?

My very first experience visiting Pakistan was incredible as I met so many family and friends for the first time. I also visited the places my mother described in stories for the first time.

The journey throughout Pakistan was humbling and I feel it was so valuable to experience as a 23-year-old woman. I met women younger, the same age and older than me and with same ethnic backgrounds, and I learnt a lot about their life and what matters to them and what being a woman with Pakistani origins means to me and how it has shaped my life.

How will this influence your future work?

As a response to this experience, I have also been creating personal work which will run in 2020 with the support of the Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham. 

How did you get in to photography and what challenges have you faced in getting your work recognised and exhibited?

I would say that as a photographer I have achieved and experienced some incredible things such as, shortly after graduating with a BA in photography in 2018 being awarded the Portrait of Britain award but I still feel I have a long way to go and a lot of things to experience.

I am very passionate and enthusiastic about expressing myself through photography and narrating history in my photographs for future Pakistani generations in England.

I can only do this by seeking opportunities and applying myself fully in the practice. I feel those opportunities are out there — it is just the matter of me staying engaged in developing my practice. The greatest challenge is finding the relevant support, such as from Transforming Narratives, that is interested in the voice of a young British Pakistani women like me.

Too Rich a Soil runs from 15 November — 19 April 2020 at The New Art Gallery Walsall.

For more information follow Maryam on her website and on Instagram: @maryamwb and Twitter: @wahidmaryam.

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