Maryam Jafri

Maryam Jafri (b. 1972, Pakistan) lives and works in New York and Copenhagen. She is an artist working in video, performance, and photography. Informed by a research-based interdisciplinary process, her artworks are often marked by a visual language poised between film and theater and a series of narrative experiments oscillating between script and document, fragment and whole. Jafri holds a BA in English and American Literature from Brown University, Providence; an MA from NYU/Tisch School of the Arts, New York; and is a graduate of the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program.

Independence Day 1934–1975, 2009–present
Installation, variable dimensions
Courtesy of the artist and various archives.

Maryam Jafri’s Independence Day 1934–1975 features over sixty archival photos culled from more than thirty archives of the first Independence Day ceremonies of various Asian, Middle Eastern, and African nations. A key feature of the work is that the photos are sourced primarily from public archives in the Asian and African countries themselves. The first Independence Day, leading up to and including the formal ceremony, unfolds as a series of highly codified rituals and elaborate speech acts enacted across public and elite spaces. The swearing in of a new leadership, the signing of relevant documents, the VIP parade, the stadium salute, the first address to the new nation, is all supervised and orchestrated by the departing colonial power. The photographic material is strikingly similar, despite disparate geographical and temporal origins, as it reveals a political model exported from Europe and in the process of being cloned throughout the world. The photo installation emerges as a typology, poised somewhere between a grid and a storyboard. Although a great deal of research has been done on both the colonial and the post-colonial eras, this project aims to introduce a third, surprisingly neglected element into the debate – that twenty-four-hour twilight period in between, when a territory transforms into a nation state.

Independence Day 1934–1975 (2009–idag), Installation view Röda Sten Konsthall, GIBCA 2015. Photo: Hendrik Zeitler