Photographer Nadirah Zakariya’s third solo exhibition uncovers her ritual of processing emotions

'Feeling Feelings Makes Me, Me' is a well-worn open diary.

Feeling Feelings Makes Me, Me is the photographer's biggest exhibition yet (Photo: Nadirah Zakariya)

Options: Congratulations on Feeling Feelings Makes Me, Me. Tell us what to expect from it.
Nadirah Zakariya: I have always wanted to have another solo exhibition but wasn’t truly ready until now. It’s one of those feelings that, after creating a large body of work in the past couple of years and visiting various exhibitions, I finally am prepared to showcase my works. Also, if not now, when?

Your first solo was in 2011 with Daughters Ago in New York, the US. How do you feel about this upcoming one?
This would be my third solo but my biggest one yet. The last time I showed solo was in 2016, when I showcased my Girlhood series at Leica Gallery in Kuala Lumpur.

How did this collaboration with Bernard Chauly come about? We understand he will be presenting some culinary creations on opening night as well as hosting a brunch soiree called Feel & Feast on one of the nights.
Bernard Chauly, a prominent figure in our film industry, is someone I have always admired. But it wasn’t until the pandemic that our friendship blossomed. He was very supportive of my lockdown floral still-life projects that I shared over Instagram. And around this time last year, I went to London for the book launch of Thames & Hudson’s Flora Photographica, where one of my photographs from the lockdown series was featured. It happens to be the same piece that Bernard purchased so it was almost serendipitous that I would finally meet him in the UK, brought together by that very artwork. We spent some time travelling together and exchanging stories. He also made space for me in his lovely home in Norfolk where I would spend time creating art while he was out being the chef that he is now. Some of these works will be shown at the exhibition as well. The moment I started to plan Feeling Feelings Makes Me, Me, I knew I wanted Bernard to be a part of it, one way or another.


Nadirah is displaying close to 40 artworks at Temu House (Photo: Nadirah Zakariya)

What can guests expect from the show and what do you want them to walk away with?
Come with an open mind and expect fun events every weekend. I hope visitors can walk away feeling like they at least understand who I am a bit more … but also make them think about who they are themselves. And in terms of what they end up feeling, that’s not for me to decide.

What are your own favourite feelings?
I am in the process of learning and unlearning how to navigate feelings and emotions. I am mastering the ability to welcome “ugly” feelings and how to sit comfortably with them, and then seeing what I can take away from them too. But of course, my ultimate favourite feeling would be joy.

On the artistic front, what will you be working on after this?
After we wrap up Feeling Feelings Makes Me, Me, I will take a short break and then get back to production with [my women-led creative studio] Layar Lucida and gear up for the Exposure+ Photo Festival 2023 in September.

What are your favourite sources of inspiration?
Lately, I have been focusing internally and a lot of my inspirations come from within. I try to honour the emotions I feel by expressing them through my art.

What are you reading right now?
I wish I had more time to read these days! But when I do have time, I like to lose myself in short stories.


After her solo exhibition at Temu House wraps up, Nadirah will be working on Exposure+ Photo Festival 2023 in September (Photo: Temu House)

What’s on your playlist right now?
I have been listening to BTS a lot, especially in the creation of the artworks you’ll see at the show. Also on repeat, a mixtape by RM called Mono. I really resonate with the music and feel that if my artwork had a soundtrack, it would definitely sound like that album. It’s very atmospheric and melancholic.

Where are you travelling to next?
I am working on a new body of work surrounding Mount Fuji again! I did a project with on theme in 2018 for the Two Mountains project [which was showcased at KL’s Ilham Gallery under the title, Fuji-san Love Letters]. The co-curator Naoko Ohta has contacted me to do a similar project in 2024. So I am guessing most of my upcoming travel plans will revolve around that.

Describe your idea of a perfect weekend.
My idea of a perfect weekend is one where I can wake up early and prepare a beautiful breakfast spread, spend some time making art and enjoy quality time with loved ones. I also love weekends where unexpected adventures await!  

Feeling Feelings Makes Me, Me is on until May 28 at Temu House, Petaling Jaya.

This article first appeared on May 8, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.


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