The University of Portsmouth, Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries is pleased to share the success of MA Photography student, Vera Hadzhiyska, who has presented her ongoing project in a group exhibition in Greece.
Vera is a Bulgarian artist and photographer based in both Bulgaria and the UK. Her practice is rooted in personal and collective memory, migration and diaspora, as well cultural and national identity.
Vera’s photographic series, Vera, was selected to be a part of a group exhibition in Thessaloniki, Greece. The University of Portsmouth sponsored Vera’s participation in the exhibition which was entitled Thresholds, showcasing work from 32 artists between 8th and 23rd June.
Vera is an ongoing project, that is an artistic interpretation of the forceful name changes (from Muslim to Slavic), forced Christening, and change of traditions, clothing and language of a significant part of the Bulgarian population before and during the Revival Process in Bulgaria.
The project investigates the Revival Process in connection to the 500 years long Ottoman Rule over Bulgaria, during which many Bulgarians were converted from Christianity to Islam. There is an invisible doorway between these two religions, and between the Turkish and Bulgarian sense of national and cultural belonging.
The self-portraits Vera creates are a response to the stories of her grandparents’ experience with the forced name changes. In several of the self-portraits, Vera wears a traditional dress that belonged to her paternal grandmother, of whom she was named after. Yet her grandmother had another name before Vera was born, a name which she was forced to forsake and never use again.
Alongside her photographs, Vera also presents an audio piece which refers to Bulgarian migration. The Bulgarian folk song ‘Ela se vie, previva’ (Fir-tree is Winding), tells the story of a newlywed girl, who is leaving her mother and father’s home to go and live with her new husband’s family. Metaphorically it can be interpreted as the parting of one person with their home when migrating to another country or place.
It expresses the emotions and feelings many migrants experience when crossing that perilous threshold between the known and the unknown .
Vera said “I had an amazing time, met the curators and some of the other artists who had come for the opening night of the exhibition. It was brilliant talking to all of them and making contacts. It was a very beneficial experience.
“On top of that my parents travelled down from Bulgaria to meet me and see the exhibition! I wouldn’t have gone to Greece if it wasn’t for the University funding.”
In addition to photography, Vera utilises mixed media in her art practice, such as sculpture, performance, audio and visual pieces, mapping, drawing, painting and printmaking, paper, and bookmaking.