Kingdom of Chamla
multi-disciplinary project, 2016 - 2017
Kingdom of Chamla questions the influence of historical events on individuals’ lives. Through the use of photography, family archives, video and mapping I trace my family’s migrations from the mountain villages of Bulgaria to towns, cities, and other countries in order to showcase a shared migratory pattern in many Bulgarian families, caused by the change in cultural, economic and political circumstances.
Some are economic migrants in search of a better life, but for others, migration has been forced. Taken away from their homes they were forbidden to return for many years. Despite the hardships of migration, the family unit manages to constantly reinvent the concept of home, cultural identity and start new lives.
audio-video piece, 2:34 min, 2017
The hearth was in the centre of traditional Bulgarian homes. The fire represents the family hearth around which all the family members gathered. It alludes to the safety and protection associated with one's family and home.
The song is a traditional Bulgarian piece called Ripni Kalinke, performed by my maternal grandmother Rena. For me it symbolises the free spirit and rebelliousness of the youth. The lyrics can also be interpreted as a metaphorical resistance against the dictatorial political regime. The ticking of the clock in the background suggests the passing of time. You can imagine the song being sung around the fire, or it could be a voice resonating from the past.
Archival Family Photographs
These two black and white photographs are selected from my grandparents’ family album. They are pictures from their youth.
The first image depicts a group of women performing traditional Bulgarian songs during a celebration of 26 years since the Socialist Revolution of 9th of September 1944 in Bulgaria. Amongst those women is my Grandmother Rena (second from right to left, checkered dress).
This photograph is connected to the "Hearth" video through my grandmother who is singing both in the picture, and in the song, you hear with the video. The posters in the picture link it to the communist regime and give historical and political context.
The second image represents the rural lifestyle that my grandparents led. It is a celebration of manual labour and hard work, looking after the land, which provided food for the family. It is a contrast to how this has changed since the introduction of capitalism in the country.
Kingdom of Chamla: Family Migrations
handmade concertina book, edition of 24, 2017
Family Migrations is part of the larger project Kingdom of Chamla. Presented in this book are 20 border outlines which form a visual trace of my family’s migrations. It follows three generations of family members’ journeys to a new home dating from the 1940s to present day 2017. The mapping of these locations, although personal, aims to resonate with the wider issues of global migrations, in connection with political regimes, social and economic changes in Bulgaria and the world.