The Scrapbook Project is Hajra Waheed's first UK solo exhibition. Over recent years, Waheed's work has comprised partly of producing single and multi-page visual diaries whose primary purpose is to reconstruct personal and popular histories, narratives and memories that reference her many lived experiences between the Middle East and North America. Her practice is as much about (re)constructing narratives and (re)claiming memories as it is about navigating place and displacement.
Made up, primarily of drawn transfers, paintings and collages but also incorporating expired Polaroid film onto aged paper from as early as 1935, these fragile works seem to act as archives for all those lost amongst the rapid development and/or political strife of the Middle East and Gulf region today. In continuation with her long-standing interest in producing undisclosed documents/documentation, the work remains rich in reference but spare in form a combination that makes them seem like secret notes or ciphers.
Elements of the artist's biography hold clues for their de-cryption. Born in Canada to Indian parents, she was raised within the gated community of Saudi ARAMCO home to a quarter of the world's oil exports, and hence protected by American and Saudi air bases, strict regulations regarding access, and the prohibition of civilians to use photographic equipment. She lived through the end of the Cold War and the first Gulf War in these conditions of secrecy and isolation, developing a childhood obsession with identifying aircraft, tracking flight routes, and keeping a log of her observations in her own secret visual language.
The Scrapbook Project is a peek into this world.
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