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Selected Brighton Magazine Article

Saturday 09 January 2021

Forced Name Changes Of Bulgaria's Muslim Population Explored By Photographer Vera Hadzhiyska In Central Brighton Gallery

Bulgarian artist Vera Hadzhiyska has been chosen to exhibit in the In Between Gallery - a temporary gallery in Fabrica's large window space, showing contemporary photography in the heart of Brighton's busy city centre for all who pass by.

The work is part of a series - With the Name of a Flower - a multi-disciplinary project which investigates the forced name changes of the Muslim population in Bulgaria (from Arabic names to state-approved Slavic ones) in the period 1912 – 1989. 

These events are considered by the artist from a family and personal viewpoint by the artist, examining the memories of people directly affected by the change of names, and their descendants. 

The exhibition window faces directly onto Duke Street, one of Brighton's busiest pedestrianised quarters, located between The South Lanes and Churchill Square, two very popular shopping destinations. 

The exhibition will mark the fourth year of Fabrica's In Between Gallery and is on view from the street during the pandemic. 

The artist further explains her work from a family and personal viewpoint:

"Vera was the name of my paternal grandmother who I was named after. 

"However, she was called Ferde before I was born. A Muslim name she was forced to renounce and never use again. 

"In the photograph you see, I am wearing a traditional dress that belonged to her in an attempt to commemorate the lives of countless people who were forced to change their names and experienced violence and trauma.

"Name changing goes deeper than giving up one's birth name. 

"In a society where being Muslim conflicted with the State's distorted idea of Bulgarian national identity, bearing a Muslim name had  become undesirable. 

"For many Bulgarian Muslims the change of name came hand in hand with repressing their religious identity. 

"This led to a subsequent generation, whose heritage was robbed  by social and political intervention in the family narrative. 

"I am interested in the effects these  historical events continue to have on the cultural, religious and national identity of the Muslim  communities in Bulgaria and their collective memory."

The image will be displayed at large scale in the window from 25th January 2021 until April 2021. CLICK HERE for more info.

by: Mike Cobley


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