One Last Night: Chapter 1- The story of Akhtar Syed Kamal

The artist treats Hannah Arendt’s text, We Refugees, where she writes, “We lost our home, which means the familiarity of daily life. We lost our occupation, which means the confidence that we are of some use in this world. We lost our language, which means the naturalness of reactions, the simplicity of gestures, the unaffected expression of feelings,” as a point of reference while occupying the domain of present and absent testimonies. This project derives from the artist’s own memories of her formative years in Germany interlinked with those of her parents, and also others who share experiences of the lasting impact of migration in its multifariousness. Visual representations of silent objects carry with them, much like a totem, inherited loss and sorrow encompassed by unspoken words and intimate histories, bearing testimonies that come together to form an archive of rebellious lingual narratives. The sequence from this series presented here, The story of Akhtar Syed Kamal carries with it the aural records of her parents’ One Last Night in Sri Lanka, drifting into their first intimate relationship, the feeling of belonging built while cohabiting with Kamal, their first friend in a new land, sharing food, hope—‘optimism’ as Arendt describes it—as well as a known collective lingual code in the midst of their arrival in a city still divided by the Cold War. Kamal had to eventually return to his home in Bangladesh, compounding the vacuum in their lives, until the artist, their first child, was born a year later, realizing the futurity embodied by the transformative last night, before leaving everything they ever knew behind. In times of movements against majoritarianism, this works presents an entry into the archaeology of a journey that would be otherwise all too easy to turn our gaze away from.

Liz Fernando graduated from LCC Photography programme, University of Arts London. Fernando’s work mostly finds its roots in conceptual research. Her research enquires into the role of photography, highlighting different meanings that photography inhabits, often dealing with the notion of memory where the personal archive inhabits a fundamental space, aesthetically and practically. Her ideas surround the notion that the objective of a photograph ponders an evolving interplay between its fragile and fugitive existence. Her work was exhibited at the Tate Modern London and showcased by the leading publisher Photoworks, Brighton. Her works have been acquired for numerous private collections including the World Bank Headquarters in Washington D.C.