In Britain we are surrounded by multiculturalism and diversity with the mass integration of migrants. Being a second generation Pakistani, my grandfather came to England in the late 60’s like many individuals from former British Colonies as a response to the labour needs in England. Consequently, the Pakistani community was formed bringing a change socially, culturally and historically in Britain.
My project shows a series of self-portraits which reflects the identities of women from the Pakistani diaspora in England. Although I have been born and raised in England, I have always felt a sense of belonging to Pakistan because of my mother who was born and raised in Pakistan until she married my father who had been raised in England. Like my mother, the women from the diaspora were often the hardworking wives, mothers and grandmothers of labourers who had come from cities, towns and even small villages in Pakistan. Although they appear to have not have integrated in British society, because of their dress or talk or interaction with people, personally I feel they have; as they have raised and brought up their children to go beyond their cultural traditions and norms. This is something which they didn’t have the privilege of when they migrated to England because they had conflicting cultural attitudes, gender roles, responsibilities and expectations dictated to them. These portraits are a depiction of many things but above all it was to highlight the courage, bravery and significance of a migrant woman. The South Asian community has transformed in British society significantly from being low skilled labour workers to working/ middle class and even the gender roles of Asians have significantly changed. This portrait was to recognise the women that have emotionally, physically and mentally supported this transformation from the first generation.
For me they are the essence of our community. Today, the Pakistanis have transformed from the low waged labourers – to the middle and working class through their support and encouragement of these courageous women.
An additional covering layer worn on the heads of many Muslim women as a humble sign of modesty. This series of portraits exhibits the variances in the stylisation of the hijab across the diverse range of cultures that adopt the Islamic faith. There is clear evidence of rich cultural heritages that influence the aesthetic of the symbolic apparel worn by these women. I have demonstrated the unique uses of colour, styles, shapes and pattern to represent their individual cultures, and how they are a clear showcase of one cloth being worn in many different ways by many different women.
The Niqab is an optional covering worn over the face exclusively for God by a minority of Muslim women. It is a choice for the vast majority of women in the UK and represents a woman’s right to display her character and persona in a way she wants. Although it conceals a woman’s face, a woman is able to portray her culture and individuality through the veil she wears. I have used various patterns, tones and embroidered materials that are worn as the Niqab in various parts of the world and in different traditions. For Muslim women who choose to wear the veil in Britain, they devote themselves in belief in One God, prayer and try to disengage themselves from atmospheres that are provisional, superficial, materialistic and are not in their spiritual beneficial means.
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A collection of my family’s archived photos from Pakistan in the late 50’s and then their photos in Britain a decade later.