Founded in Singapore, Platform is a community-driven volunteer group focusing on documentary photography and photojournalism. Each year, the group invites curators, senior photographers and editors to nominate ten emerging photographers who are based in Singapore.
This year, the session took place at the National Museum of Singapore on 2 October 2012. I have the honour of nominating Nurul Huda.
Here is my citation for her nomination:
“It is too easy to label Nurul a feminist or a Muslim artist. But her starting point is no less universal than anyone else, which is to use her photographic practice in response to her preoccupations. She does so without exploiting the usual symbols of her religion or gender, because, at the root of her practice, is a belief in research. Even in a series like Hijab/Her (2012), where the potential of reducing Muslim women into cliché imageries is ever present, Nurul diffuses it by listening to her subjects, visualizing their anecdotes in a respectful way. In The Sufi and the Bearded Man (2010), she collaborates with a historian, using photography to document the destruction of an Islamic site in Singapore and how that has affected its caretaker.”
Hijab. Screen. Curtain. Partition. Aurat. Modesty. Concealment. Coverage. Cloth.
Hijab/Her explores the varying relationships between the woman and her hijab. The hijab is a piece of cloth that shrouds her head, used as a way of concealing the aurat of the Muslim woman: areas on her body, which should be covered from view, as required in Islam. Based on the stories of different women who don the hijab, this series presents the hijab as a site of discourse, articulated in relation to her place in society, her body, and her inner self.
“I miss having the wind in my hair. I would much rather read a book than cook. I like to wear sexy lingerie, but I cannot show it. I sometimes feel invisible. I often feel overwhelmed by representations of us, good or bad. I have been called a ‘terrorist’ before. I exist. “
Inspired by the story of Pontianak licking the menstrual blood of a woman too lazy to dispose off her sanitary pad, a cautionary tale told onto young women, this series illustrates the configurations through which women have thought about their menstrual blood – as told unto them through ideological narratives – and as mediated through policing the blood through different spaces. Embodied through normalized tools of menstruation, these photographs subvert, silence, and aestheticize that which have been relegated into the realm of the ‘dirty’, which resides within the female body; the body and process through which life is made or broken. A lining.
The Sufi and the Bearded Man (2010)
This series is a documentation of the Siti Maryam shrine, or keramat, that used to be located along the Kallang River, Singapore. Demolished and exhumed in early April 2010, it has materialized into an exhibition at the NUS Museum as an attempt at ethnographic preservation (through the objects), aestheticization, and storytelling of the otherwise silenced histories. These photographs were taken over a year as myself and historian Teren Sevea moved in and out of the space that was ever-changing with every visit.
As it is with a lot of spaces in Singapore, they are constantly being reduced to roads or made way for redevelopment as soon as they are deemed “unnecessary” by the authorities. In documenting the space before, during, and after the process of its erasure, this series deals with the relationships of Singapore vis-a-vis her spaces, heritage, history, and memory, as well as the more personal issues of narratives, oral histories, and ‘home’–seen through the life of Ali, the keramat caretaker and the bearded man.
nuruL H. is a photographer, writer, and curator. Whilst completing her degree, she picked up photography and has since been using it as her medium. Through the visual, she articulates aspects of her different research interests that range from ideas on memory, the body, and the narrative. Her photography often deals with issues related to women as well as the subaltern: looking at the different positions of women in society; and the nuances of the in-between. These have been visualized through projects such as Hijab/Her, Women in Spaces, and The Sufi and the Bearded Man. Her approach to photography is often determined by whim, but mostly revolving around discourses of memory, the body, gender, and spaces.