Shaiama Ahadi


Bachelor of Visual Arts Mixed Media Painting Drawing Identity Power Language


My work explores the ideas of reconnecting with Farsi, the language that is spoken in the country I migrated from, Kabul Afghanistan. Through the making of these artworks, I found that I was able to remember childhood memories that I had almost forgotten. Memories of my Islamic school classes where I would practice writing in my language, as well as the more important times of my childhood where my grandparents would read Farsi books to me. Although I never really understood the words this was a calming way of spending time together. My work revolves around the idea of using memories to create charcoal textures and marks of the Farsi alphabet. These Farsi words are important to me and I can appreciate them now through art making.

How easy is it for us to forget the things we don't pay attention to? The things we grow out of, things we do not find important. We are so focused on everyday life that we neglect who we are, where we came from, our ancestors, our culture and most importantly our native language. I have found myself disconnected from my cultural heritage which has led me to question who I really am?

My work has helped me reconnect with my cultural identity by using the writing of the people of Afghanistan. I have renewed appreciation for the Farsi language after a decade of losing my sense of the purpose of it. Despite the difficulties of learning how to write the Farsi alphabet while living in New Zealand, I notice I have slowly become more comfortable with my mother tongue since beginning to use Farsi letters in my work. Connecting my cultural identity with my art practice has opened endless possibilities to create work that holds significant value and allows me to connect with my Afghani culture.

During the making of these works, I have been able to look back and remember the times I first learnt to write in Farsi and those important people who taught me that have now passed. All sorts of emotions run through me while I paint specific letters. Each letter holds unique importance to me. The most visible letter ش ‘Sheen’ is the first letter of my name. Along with other hidden letters that are there but barely visible, the letters that hold a time, memory, or a place in my life that I am holding onto. The choice of scale of my work ‘Khatt’ represents the size of the Quran the central religious text of Islam which I was gifted as a child. Each of these works resemble a page of a chapter in the Quran that is fresh in memory such as stories and verses. The beauty of the flow of the letters, the form, shape, and the memories become the central purpose of my drawing

The work of Iranian artist Shirin Neshat resonates for me. She has said, “Iranian culture is deep inside of our blood and in our subconscious and our psyche, even If we live outside longer then in our country.” In her 1993-97 Women of Allah series, Neshat explored rebellious silence and the idea of using the Farsi word as her weapon. She is engaging with her culture. She says, “The Art becomes this vehicle of maintaining this relationship between me and my lost country and my lost family." Naturally, we forget the things we choose not to find important; days turn into weeks that turn into months that turn into years and eventually after years of believing we no longer need something as part of our lives. Sometimes we feel that to fit in, we need to be like everyone else, but the truth is, that being different is what makes us unique.