With the Name of a Flower

Project Details

Description

“With the Name of a Flower” investigates the forced name-changes (from Muslim to Slavic names) and repressions against Muslim people in Bulgaria during the so called “Revival Process” (1912-1989). The project takes into consideration the historical and political context of the 500 years long Ottoman Rule over Bulgaria (1396-1878), the years after the Liberation to present day.

A new name entails a new sense of identity. Vera is interested in how these traumatic events have been preserved or purposefully omitted from the family narratives, and how that has affected the cultural, national, and religious identity of Muslim people and their descendants.
As a descendant herself, Vera feels it is her duty to unearth and share the stories of the Pomak and Turk communities to gain a deeper understanding how the events of the past have affected their contemporary life and identity.

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My motivation to work on this topic comes from a very personal place. My family are Pomaks from the Rhodope Mountains. They come from Chamla, Mugla and Trigrad, but at the moment they are scattered all over Bulgaria and the world. Some of my relatives emigrated to Turkey in the 1960s. Another part of my family was forcibly evicted to Veliko Tarnovo region, in Northern Bulgaria. My grandfather's father was sent to Belene camp where he died. So colorful and heavy with memories is the history of my family.

All this, however, I learned for the first time several years ago. In 2017, while interviewing my grandparents about our family history, they casually mentioned their "old names". That's how I first learned about the forced name changing campaigns. That's where my interest in the subject started.

From 2017 to 2019, I created the first part of the project "With the Name of a Flower", which is a combination of self-portraits, video and audio installation, archival documents and other elements inspired by stories and memories of relatives. In that part of the project I used myself as a model. The project itself is also an attempt to make sense of my personal identity and inherited/ intergenerational trauma that was hidden from me for many years.

As I listened to these family stories, I wondered what other Muslim families had experienced. These events and government policies affected a large part of the Bulgarian population, but each person experienced and reacted to the trauma in a different way.

I am interested in how the processes of name change affected the identity of people (both people who experienced the renaming personally and their descendants). Through this project, I want to learn how these events have affected the transmission of religious customs and traditions, as well as memories from the elderly to the younger generation, and how this has affected people's religious affiliation and sense of belonging.

In September 2021 (after a 2-year break due to the pandemic) I had the opportunity to return to Bulgaria to travel and meet people from the Muslim community. This chapter of the project combines photos from my trip in September, compiled with the help of Svetlana Bakhchevanova during a mentoring program from the VID Foundation for Photography. Meeting and getting to know new people from the Muslim community and hearing their stories motivates me to continue working on this project. They inspire me to continue collecting, preserving and sharing the lived history of generations of Muslims in Bulgaria.

In November 2021 I received funding from Arts Council England for “Developing Your Creative Practice” for a project to develop socially engaged creative practice with the Muslim community at heart. This funding helped me travel around Bulgaria in 2022 and meet more people from the Muslim community affected by the forced name change and repression associated with the so-called "Revival Process."

Layperson's description

"With the Name of a Flower" is a long-term project that explores the repression and forced name change of Muslims in Bulgaria. Through my work I seek to learn how these historical events have influenced the cultural, religious and national identity of people and their descendants.
StatusActive
Effective start/end date1/06/17 → …

Keywords

  • photography
  • practice research
  • bulgaria
  • history
  • culture
  • religion
  • identity
  • muslim
  • names