This conversation with Hajra Waheed began in person with an opportune meeting at her Montreal studio in April 2016. At that point she had two solo exhibitions taking place simultaneously in the UK, Sea Change (Chapter 1) at The Mosaic Rooms in London and The Cyphers at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. It was through a past colleague at the latter, Alessandro Vincentelli, that I was first introduced to Hajra’s intelligent and materially varied practice. Describing her work as personal and fascinating, he urged me to contact her should I find myself in Montreal.
While inextricably linked to personal experience, Waheed’s work also seems indicative of our wider contemporary moment. The intricate narratives woven throughout mirror a time in which it is becoming evermore difficult to identify fact from fiction, of complex power struggles both online and offline, at ground level and aerially, where tensions between social justice and rampant racism and xenophobia proliferate, and where examining and addressing power structures, ultimately, is key.
2016 was a tumultuous and unpredictable year, and one in which Waheed’s practice achieved a quiet ascent. Our conversation developed from a studio visit to an email exchange, in which time she was nominated and then shortlisted for Canada’s biggest contemporary art accolade, the Sobey Art Award. Waheed’s installation was exhibited as part of the 2016 Sobey Award Finalists Exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. She also participated last year in a travelling show, curated by Tate Modern Curator/Researcher Nada Raza, at OCA Office of Contemporary Art in Oslo, Norway. A solo exhibition at ALT, Istanbul and participation in the main exhibition of the 57th Venice Biennale ‘Viva Arte Viva’, amongst other shows, beckon for 2017.