Purdah - The Sacred Cloth is a series of portraits of women from the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities who practice the tradition of head covering or veiling. The term, Purdah (to curtain), varies in meaning amongst particular South Asian and Arab cultures. It can refer literally to a fabric used to cover something sacred but it is also used traditionally to signify the veiling, modesty and privacy of women.
The women in Shah’s portraits represent a variety of sacred cloths, which they wear day to day, during worship, or at particular occasions. The portraits range from Sikh women wearing the dastar and chunni, to Hindu women dressed in their sarees. The series also includes Muslim women wearing the niqab, abaya, and variations of the hijab.
In her series of portraits, Shah shifts the focus of the Purdah to the physical and spiritual act of drawing and closing the sacred cloths that her sitters choose to embody. The work attempts to redefine Purdah's historical meanings and perceptions, through representations of contemporary women who practice the tradition of head covering or veiling.
Purdah - The Sacred Cloth slowly unfolds the delicate layers of meaning these sacred cloths have to these women, as they shift between their cultural, religious and personal states, as well as the private and the public spaces they inhabit.
Purdah Process Images
Purdah Exhibition Images
To create Purdah - The Sacred Cloth, Arpita collaborated with: Ghazala Hakeem / Attaya Quyyum / Reshma Shah / Samina Ansari / Ramizah Binti Asis / Perwinkle Ghumman / Komal Hussain / Shameem Raza / Kulvinder Kaur / Parminder Kaur / Maqsooda Aslam / Harbans Kaur / Central Gurdwara / The Dixon Centre / AMINA / Street Level Photoworks