Scholarship helps Hassina explore her heritage

Hassina Khan Glass Panel

MA Glass and Ceramics student Hassina Khan grew up in the 1970s as a child of an English mother and a Pakistani father. As a result, Hassina felt a dissonance between the two elements of her background which has informed the person she is today.

Hassina believed that works exploring these issues could both resonate with other people and provide a catalyst for wider conversation and discussion about race and identity.

The Mike Davies Innovation Scholarship was awarded to Hassina to enable her to learn Nastaliq script, the written form of Urdu, to incorporate it into her work both as whole words and text as well as through using the characters as the basis of pattern and form.

With the money Hassina received, she was able to fund materials and tools to do this as well as take part in an inspirational trip to London.

Hassina explained: “Originally I had intended to participate in an online course but due to the start dates I instead bought two highly-recommended books and began to teach myself to write the letterforms.

“As a result of the funding I made two pieces of work. The first piece entitled Visible/Invisible explored the impact of names. It consists of three rows of four glass tiles engraved with the words ‘My name is Hassina’ in Urdu. The words are re-ordered within each row, playing with the differing sentence structures of the two languages of my heritage and alluding to the constantly changing nature of a mixed cultural identity.

“It references my personal experience of being consistently called ‘Farida’ by the Deputy Headteacher at my school as well as the more universal experience of needing to repeat your name again and again to people you haven’t met before.”

The second piece of work Hassina created is called Unprecious/Precious and focuses on the role that objects play within culture and heritage. The glass box is inscribed with Urdu words and each face has been engraved with one word which names an object in Hassina’s possession from Pakistan; dress, shoe, pot, lamp, table and toy.

Hassina added: “The work alludes to the notion that objects can help us feel like we belong, that we are part of something, especially where for a person from a diaspora that something may be far away in space and time.”

The online course that Hassina was originally interested in is still in the pipeline and she has set aside some money to take part in this when it’s advertised again. Having a working knowledge of the script should help give Hassina a head start as well as the confidence and freedom to begin to explore the letterforms in more abstract ways.

Hassina concluded: “The Mike Davies Innovation Scholarship made a significant difference to my work. I have learnt both a new alphabet and a new technique. I’m confident that I have a sound basis on which to build the rest of my MA.

“I am very grateful to Mike Davies for giving me the impetus to think about my work differently and the resources to make it happen.”

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