Through the use of self-portraiture, appropriation, and simple sculptures, Prefix aims to retell and reclaim Farihah Shah’s origin story through a decolonial perspective. This series also explores the coupling of language with images and its resultant effect on interpretation. Prefix seeks to merge the historical and personal archive into a single continuum.
As a biracial person, Shah’s origin has always been a point of curiosity and contention—not Black enough to really be Black, and yet not Indian enough either. The work examines her historical family migration in relation to the colonial export of commodities: labour, tea, sugar, and rice. Shah uses these colonial tropes in the imagery to comment on identity formation, cultural appropriation, and the burden of cultural hybridity. Her series also engages issues of representation of the Black female nude and references the historical trauma suffered by enslaved peoples. Coupled with the prints is an installation of framed, tea-soaked fabrics that progressively get darker. The tea installation speaks to the “staining” of culture and comments on colourism within the Black community.
Farihah Aliyah Shah holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography, with a minor in Integrated Media, from OCAD University. Shah’s practice includes an array of conceptual, street, and studio photography; time-based film work; multimedia installations; and performance-based works that explore issues of racial identity, constructed and natural landscapes, personal and collective memory, and the ebb and flow of people in private and public spaces. Her work has been displayed in galleries in Finland, Germany,