Behjat Omer Abdulla

Bahjat is a Kurdish visual artist who works with mixed media, mainly drawing, photography, and video installation, in order to listen to peoples’ stories and try to create a platform for debate around the issues raised. His work raises questions about identity and people’s position in the world.

“In Limbo” Southbank, 2011

‘I have been working with the notion of identity for many years since I first found myself in a state of exile trying to gain recognition by the Immigration system in the UK. It has been over thirteen years since I left my native land, Kurdistan-Iraq.

I’ve often been asked for identity pictures for the various types of ID cards I was required to have and I now own a collection of “self-ID pictures”. My work developed directly from an investigation into the use of these ID cards, what they say about people’s origins, and how these people are ultimately presented at the end of the governmental process.’

‘I try to question the effects and the outcomes of this systemic categorization. It is shocking to see how codes and numbers classify and shape us within a system that, to us, is almost invisible. It is quite surprising and rather fascinating to see that we expect ID photographs to be a true reflection of who we really are, when in fact they only represent a superficial side of our identity; our physical appearance. However, this process of categorisation extends beyond the Immigration services and other governmental departments. The desire to reduce a person to only their photographic image is widespread.’

– Excerpts from his personal website.

In this video Behjat sketches a portrait of his mother: