Rabbania Shirjeel is a Lahore-based practicing visual artist. She has recently completed her Master of Art and Design Studies degree from Beaconhouse National University. Being the only Pakistani to have an honors degree in photography, the idea of limiting oneself to a single medium or working with specific interests is unfamiliar to her. Rabbania constantly questions the possibilities around photography and the way it is seen in Pakistan. She also works as an oral historian collecting stories and compiling them for her archive project, and is highly fascinated by history and language, especially Urdu. Recently she has completed a translation for the British Council zine New Narratives. In 2015 Rabbania founded Tasweerghar, for which she single-handedly organized talks and collaborative exhibition projects in addition to introducing an annual residency program. Rabbania is now one of the nine participants from South Asia for a photo project “New Waves of Documentary” under the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute.
THE ARTIST ON MUSCLE MEMORY
I am interested in the phenomena of memory and nostalgia. Memory is complex yet simple. A lot of artists are emotionally concerned by memory and so I try to narrow it down and emotionally respond to it. For me memory has many chapters like childhood, spaces and different times, each one to be looked at differently.
My research started from revisiting my grandparents house not in reality but in memory. This imaginative-yet-closest-to-reality dynamics really fascinated me. Later my projects also included old houses, stories from old spaces, mapping of old cities and documenting them which led my research to take a major shift to human existence and memory through architecture and existing spaces.
For me it is about revisiting the past through mapping out the present: mapping through digital documentation, paper colleges, building house models and compiling archives. These purposes conceptually resonate with the idea of memory as the results are spaced out. My art practice is intuitive and that comes from a place of practicing remembering what I remember already and not letting go of it: to create a space in one’s mind and train the muscles to believe it as reality, even if it lives in memory.
& ON WHAT IT MEANS TO BE KALEIDOSCOPED
For me, being in a Kaleidoscope is being curious!