Girl Gaze – Journeys Through the Punjab & The Black Country

2 years ago

A new exhibition creates an interesting dialogue between women in Punjab (India) and the Indian diaspora living in the Black Country (Wolverhampton, Walsall and Sandwell in the UK). Girl Gaze – Journeys Through the Punjab & The Black Country, features the work of four female photographers and explores a broad range of themes. Via portraits of women and glimpses of their daily life, it tackles gender roles, migration, tradition, identity, patriarchy and the similarities and differences that define women in both countries.

While the project has been in the making for many months, it comes at an important time. It surfaces against the backdrop of #MeToo, #TimesUp and #WomensHistoryMonth – movements fighting to give women greater visibility. The exhibition features newly commissioned lens-based work by Jocelyn Allen (UK), Jennifer Pattison (UK), Andrea Fernandes (India) and Uzma Mohsin (India).

It’s a new perspective on the glossy diaspora stories we might know from Bend It Like Beckham and pop culture alike. “We have strong Indian historical roots here, in business, culture and education, but somehow we’ve disconnected from India today. We’ve used ‘Bollywood films’ and romanticised stories about life in India as a means to connect, and sadly missed an evolution of contemporary culture. This project allows us to stimulate new conversations and reimagine India in the 21st Century,” says Parminder Dosanjh, Creative Director of Creative Black Country, a campaign which seeks to spotlight creative talent in the Black Country.

It is, simultaneously, an observation on what it means to be a woman today, in traditionally patriarchal Punjab. The work traverses from Wolverhampton to West Bromwich, and from Jalandhar to Patiala. “It reveals interesting synergies and equally compelling divergences regarding the complex nature of migration, and the relationship established between diaspora communities in the Black Country and their origins in the Punjab,” says curator, Iona Fergusson. “Each artist brings their individual interests and distinctive narrative styles to the fore.”

Jocelyn Allen

Allen’s series, titled ‘You Will Live in This World as A Daughter’, features portraits of girls shot in the UK and India. The obscured the faces of her subjects weave in a comment on their visibility in a patriarchal society.

Jennifer Pattison

Pattison’s series of quiet landscapes and intimate portraits, titled ‘Rice Pudding Moon & The River of Dreams’, is inspired by Punjabi loris (lullabies). She explores the idea of the land of dreams, of mother’s love and the passing down of lullabies and stories from generation to generation.

Andrea Fernandes

With her series titled, ‘You Laugh As Much As You Cry’, Fernandes uses 3D projections to immerse you in her impressions of the people she met, the conversations she captured, and the places she visited.

Uzma Mohsin

Mohsin’s series, ‘Love & Other Hurts’, is a sensitive deep-dive in the personal histories of British-Punjabi and Punjabi women, over the last 70 years. She paints a complex picture of diaspora communities.

Girl Gaze: Journeys Through the Punjab & The Black Country, UK opens in Chandigarh at the Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi (March 10-18) and will travel to Jalandhar (23-27 March), Delhi, London and Wolverhampton later in the year