Arpita Shah

Hijab from the Series Purdah, The Sacred Cloth

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About this artwork

Portraits from the series Purdah‑The Sacred Cloth, present women from Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities living in Scotland, who practice the tradition of head covering, or veiling. Shah originally made the photographs in 2013 as a commission from the Tramway, Glasgow. The term Purdah (to curtain) can refer to a fabric used to cover something sacred, but also refers to the veiling of women for reasons of modesty and privacy. The women in Shah’s portraits wear a variety of sacred cloths which are intended for different uses, such as everyday wear, those for worship and special occasions. As Shah notes, ‘These portraits attempt to shift the focus of the Purdah to the physical and spiritual act of drawing and closing the sacred cloths that the sitters choose to embody. The work attempts to redefine Purdah's historical meanings and perceptions, through representations of contemporary women who practice the tradition of head covering or veiling.’ The word hijab refers to the act of covering up. Hijabs are usually worn for religious and modesty reasons by Muslim women when in the presence of any male outside of their immediate family. Traditionally the hijab fabric covers hair, ears and neck.

Updated before 2020

  • artist:
  • title:
    Hijab from the Series Purdah, The Sacred Cloth
  • date created:
    Image made 2013; printed 2019
  • materials:
    Inkjet print
  • measurements:
    101.60 x 101.60 cm
  • object type:
  • credit line:
    Purchased 2019
  • accession number:
    PGP 945.2
  • gallery:
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Arpita Shah

Arpita Shah