Anam Ki Almari - The Trophy Cupboard
Arif has been the 20/20 artist-in-residence at Kelvingrove since August 2022. Anam Ki Almari presents the culmination of her research into Glasgow Museums’ collection as a film installation and ceramic works. This new work creatively re-appropriates the objects collected from the Glasgow International Exhibition (1888) – more specifically the “Indian Pavilion” – exploring rituals, traditions and the communal act of making as a way to overcome subjugation and reclaim the colonial gaze.
Anam Ki Almari, is Arif's most substantial undertaking to date. Throughout the research and development, she fostered collaborations with South Asian community groups in Glasgow. These included the Glendale Women’s Café, Glasgow Sitare and the young changemakers from the Our Shared Cultural Heritage group within Kelvingrove. She invited them to the Glasgow Museums Resource Centre to handle the selected objects from her research and share stories through oral storytelling, hand building clay and singing workshops. The collaborations have been an integral part of how the work developed and were a cathartic way for Arif herself to uncover the very human narratives behind these 'ornamental' objects.
The performers in the film embody some of these objects that Arif found in the collection. These objects – represented in human form – revitalise rich South Asian customs and heritage, resisting their portrayal as mere souvenirs from the British Empire. Through the presence of performers, she reminds us that it was more than just the appropriation of an object and its history. The severity of the damage and confusion caused through colonialism was on a human level. By shedding light on the hidden histories, the work recontextualizes Glasgow's colonial legacy and the South Asian heritage within the British Empire.