While the row about Boris and his recent comments on the burqa reverberates, a sensitive exhibition of photography by Arpita Shah explores the issue of coverings worn by Muslim, Sikh and Hindu women. ‘Purdah – The Sacred Cloth’ at Autograph in Rimington Place is named after the Persian word ‘to curtain’, which can either refer to the fabric of a veil or the act of veiling itself.
Arpita Shah, who herself crosses cultures, having been born in India and now living in Scotland, worked with Asian women from Pollokshields in Glasgow during a residency on the Albert Drive Project in 2013 to explore what it Purdah means for South Asian women who wear it in 21st century Glasgow, whether every day or on special or religious occasions, with each photograph accompanied by a quote from the woman in question:
‘The Sari is a sacred tradition in my culture, when I wear it, I feel like it’s this beautiful bejewelled Purdah that wraps me up and transports me back to India’ (Reshma)
‘The Dastar is a distinct part of a Sikh person’s identity and is a sacred cloth worn by both men and women. My Dastar is the crown on my head that empowers me to be a strong and confident woman’ (Kulvinder)
‘My Hijab allows me to express my identity as a Muslim woman, and this current political climate, it often acts as a catalyst for dialogue’ (Ghazala).
Purdah has an important role in the 21st century world for these women in terms of their identity, heritage and empowerment.
The exhibition highlights how Purdah still has an important role in the 21st century world for women in terms of their identity, heritage and empowerment and, on a personal note, it is great to see this exhibition from Pollokshields on show in London – my father was the church organist for many years at Pollokshields Church.