Nilupa Yasmin’s work is primarily lens based, while taking a keen interest in the notion of culture, self-identity and anthropology. Combined with her love for handcraft and photographic explorations, the artist repeatedly draws upon her own South Asian culture and heritage. The practice of weaving, passed down through inheritance, has become an integral exploration in the development and expression of human value. Her research examines the principles of craft in art based practice; becoming an evident methodology shown throughout her work and investigating ideals and traditions that are very close to home. Her recent project ‘Grow me a Waterlily’ has been exhibited at the Argentea Gallery, 2018, as well as Coventry’s Culture Bid 2021. She is an exhibiting artist for Birmingham Big Art Project and currently a commissioning artist with Multistory, Photo Archive Miners and Arts Council England.
আমার জন্য একটি শাপলা পরিচর্যা কর (Amar jono ekṭi Shapla poricharjya khoro), translated as ‘Grow me a Waterlily’, dwells in the space between expectations and traditions, by offering an exploration into the self, the home and the idea of belonging. Yasmin is present in her work both visually and physically, portraying her identity through the understanding of craft and the politicised notion of fabric. As a British, Bengali, Muslim woman she aims to create a place for herself. In doing so, she explores the ideas of what she should, could and would be. ‘Grow me a Waterlily’ shows intricately woven archival images combined into self portraits, incorporating bold statements made from Yasmin’s headscarf to her mothers wedding saree. In this, each image tells a story of her journey into self discovery. Paying homage to her Bengali traditions and Yasmin’s persistence in creating a space, viewers are invited to be a part of this installation of a contemporary British Bengali living room. Weaving as a form of self-expression is brought together with these striking self-portraits that study her identity. Physically weaving together her many identities this piece conveys Yasmin’s journey into learning about the person she has become.
“There are many facets behind this body of work, some very visible to the viewer while others only offering subtle hints. The journey explored in GMAW is one that I have long battled with myself; the idea of belonging. Associated with numerous identities, I have always struggled to understand where I fit in. I began this project with the intention of discovering just that but it lead me onto a very different path of understanding. Instead of trying to fit in, I wanted to take all these parts of me and create something that was my space; a place that allowed me to invite in others who felt just like me. My identity has always been something I’ve struggled to both understand and fit into. Being a Muslim, Bengali, British woman, I hold many strands of these labels with me. Some of which have influenced my day to day choices, my interest and even the way I dress.”
“The process began with placing myself in front of the camera, something I had never done before. I have never been my own primary subject in the work I’m creating and that really pushed me beyond my own comprehension. Clothing has consistently been an integral part in articulating who I am. As a visible Muslim woman, my Muslim identity will always be a present factor in the work I am making. My headscarf is my identity, a choice, an inner struggle and a huge part of what has shaped me. I am perceived differently for what is on my head and even how I choose to wrap it. It also became one of the primary factors in my self portraits that led into my installation piece. In all 42 different portraits I am dressed in various items of clothing in front of woven backgrounds made from archival images of countless moments in my life. Each image plays a part in conveying who I am, from the wraps in my turban to the drapes in my saree. All of which taught me the countless ways we politicise what a piece of fabric can become.”
“Weaving for me has always been a form of self expression, almost therapeutic in many ways. As a keen paper crafter the process of weaving has a long history both in my research and my own family. Discovering my great-grandmother was a weaver in Bangladesh who used to make utilitarian objects out of bamboo sticks and make a living selling them, somewhat gave my work a different dimension. It connects me to a piece of my own history that was forgotten and lost through generations, a piece of Bangladesh I hold close to me. It has also raised many questions on the significance of craft forms that have traveled from their past uses. My great-grandmother saw her weaving as a way to feed her family, today I see it as an integral part of what has formed my artistic practise. The traditional art of silk weaving is very prominent in Bangladesh and in many ways has kept me rooted to this rich culture and heritage of where my family are from. My installation for GMAW was constructed into a contemporary British Bangladeshi living room space that was woven entirely from images of me that depict my numerous identities.
The process of weaving is very slow and requires a certain level of patience and dedication towards the end result. It worked as way of connecting the strands of my many identities together. Other than my own personal projects such as GMAW, I’ve also had a keen interest in using weaving as a way to bringing together a community of people through every strip placed side by side. Weaving has allowed me to be present in many of my projects without having a visual representation of me, whilst telling the stories of others through my craft.”
“‘Grow me a waterlily’ is the start of an ongoing project with many branches expanding from it. The title comes from Nilupa meaning Waterlily, a Shapla, which is also the national flower of Bangladesh, a representation of the many rivers that run through the country and it felt symbolic to these many identities that are presented through me. Images made in this series still remain untitled and singular but are all starting points I am still yet to explore. I want people to know that this story isn’t just mine anymore, it’s a part of everyone who has ever felt they don’t fit in. I’m creating this space for us.”
See more of her work at nilupayasmin.com