A NEW exhibition has opened in Britain’s northern city of Bradford that showcases its Pakistani community during the past four decades.

Through My Father’s Lens by Nabeelah Hafeez, uses photographs and words to throw a spotlight on the region’s Asian migrants.

Showcasing photography and poetry from both herself and her late father Mohammed Hafeez Johar, the exhibition is a sort of tribute from a child to her parent.

An image from the Through My Father’s Lens exhibition

Johar, who passed away in 2009, was a notable poet and photographer. Hafeez, 30, recalled he took photographs from a very early age and she hoped to learn from him and
the portrait style in which he took photographs.

She told Eastern Eye that after his death, however, she found it difficult to use his Pentax camera as it seemed to symbolise the grief of his loss she was experiencing.

“Me and my dad were very close,” she said. “My love of books and stories really started from him because he would write stories for us.

“He really nurtured my creativity and I really appreciate that my dad was that kind of person in my life. He taught me to be a creative person and to express myself.”

Bradford-born Hafeez said she “lost” the creative side of her personality when her father died. For a long time, she said, she hadn’t realised that losing her sense of expression
and creativity meant she wasn’t being fully true to herself.

Nabeelah Hafeez

“I let that part of myself die out on the shelf with the camera I left there,” she explained. “I was still dealing with the grief of it until this exhibition – it is really the first time I’m feeling the pain of his passing away in a healthy way.”

Some of Hafeez’s earliest memories of her father are those with his camera – she described it as a normal part of her family’s everyday life. From her school plays to parades that she took part in as a child, her father was around to capture those memorable moments.

“Looking through the images, I’ve noticed the way he expressed his love for my mum – there are hundreds of different pictures of her,” she said. “The pictures captured her round the house or on random outings or even just combing her hair.

“It was beautiful to see it again – I’d always known he loved her, but I didn’t realise the extent until I saw through his own eyes just how much he did love her.”

Hafeez revealed that it was very emotional when her mother Nasim saw the completed show. Although she had an idea of what her daughter was doing, she didn’t really know what to expect from the showcase, Hafeez admitted.

“[When she saw it], she had the biggest smile on her face and she was so emotional,” she recalled. “It was just incredible for her to see it. It was emotional for all of us.”

An image from the Through My Father’s Lens exhibition

Audiences tend to relate to aspects of the exhibition, Hafeez said. From migration, a close relationship with a family member or dealing with grief, the exhibition has multi-dimensional elements for visitors.

“The journey is so personal, but I feel so many people can relate to so many different aspects of it,” she added.

Talking about Bradford, the young artist said she feels the Pakistani community has become more widespread over time. She also found the youth culture seem to be “owning”
their heritage and roots a lot more than they used to.

“I never really knew how to empower myself and how to embrace my own roots and my heritage until I was older,” she said. “My dad used to tell me to be proud of where you’re from and that is Bradford as well as Pakistan.

“So, I’m proud of both.”

Through My Father’s Lens is currently showing at Kala Sangam, Bradford. The exhibition, which is free, runs until Thursday, April 12.