Mariam Magsi


MAY 3 – JUNE 17, 2018

Director’s Note

The AGM is proud to present Jahez | Dowry in the gallery’s XIT-RM Project Space. A powerful personal meditation on family and societal expectations, these photographs offer a wonderful introduction to multidisciplinary artist Mariam Magsi’s work. We are pleased to showcase her work alongside the group exhibition seeping upwards, rupturing the surface, and especially intrigued by the contrasting ways the diverse women in both exhibitions express feminist impulses through the use of the body.

Artist Bio

Mariam Magsi is a Pakistani-Canadian contemporary artist working in photography, performance, video, sound, installation, documentary, poetry and other arts. Magsi holds an MFA from OCAD University in Interdisciplinary Art, Media and Design. Magsi’s practice focuses on cultural research, intersectional feminism, South Asian diaspora, contemporary Islam, gender, sexuality and migration.

Artist Statement

Jahez is a word from the Urdu language that refers to paraphernalia or goods that accompany a bride to her new, marital home. This series incorporates inherited objects that I have migrated with from Pakistan to Canada into performative photographs. My mother gave these objects to me and they have travelled a significant distance. Many of these objects are domestic in nature and are perceived to have gendered function and utility.

I use inherited veils, tablecloths, tea cosies, jewels, kitchen utensils, cutlery, crockery and various other paraphernalia and goods that hang off my head in a balancing act. Instead of using these objects in their original function, I silently rebel and subvert the cultural and societal expectations that are placed upon me.

Veils and table clothes are wrapped around my head.

Decorative piercings hang our of my eyes or mouth in surrealist chaos.

Cold, metallic bottoms of unused steel, cooking pots stare back defiantly at the viewer.

Each of these objects has utility and function; they protect, conceal, enhance, nourish, ornament and enrich daily life, yet and are made unusable in this series of photographs.

Curatorial Statement

In Jahez | Dowry Mariam Magsi confronts the viewer with a silent balancing act. Maintained only through rigid and rigorous postures, with no pins used to affix the objects that she places on her body, this act metaphorically speaks to the pressures the artist, and many women face to adhere to tradition in marriage. Veiling herself with various items, Magsi reflects the modesty codes expected of her and other South Asian women. Household items such as pots and rolling pins speak to the domestic pressures associated with notions of marriage and motherhood.

These items both obscure and reveal, highlighting the complexity of the artist’s relationship to them. In Jahez | Dowry 3, a silver table ornament is transformed into armour when Magsi veils herself with it, perhaps, paradoxically, protecting her from rigid familial and cultural expectations. Through the act of transforming these objects, Magsi reclaims agency over the narratives perpetuated by their traditional meaning, challenging patriarchal structures and the violence often associated with jahez, where many women are harasses or killed for their family’s failure to provide an adequate offering, financial or otherwise. Despite the troubled associations of jahez, her connection to the histories of these objects is not lost, as many of the titles reference the places and practices of home. One must consider the meaning behind rendering these objects – which are gendered and highly symbolic – effectively useless, absurdist accessories.

Curated by Laura Carusi, Curatorial and Collections Coordinator