Turning her grief into beautiful artworks that are not restricted to just one medium, Al-Qawi Nanavati is keeping the memory of her mother alive through a life-long project ‘Letter To My Mother’. It is an attempt to make sense of all the grief left behind after the loss of her mother ‘Mumtaz’.
Al-Qawi Nanavati is a Mumbai-based artist who started writing letters to her mother in a secret language after her very sudden demise in 2018 to understand the concept of grief. Her ongoing series, ‘The Letters to My Mother’, features different types of artworks in different mediums like paper mache, fabric, embroidered pieces, and more. This series was started by her as a way to simply speak to her late mother and turned out to be something very beautiful.
“I was talking to my mother through this work and while I was working on it, I kept thinking about loss and what happens after somebody passes away. After my mother’s demise, I wasn’t able to pick up a brush or even a pencil. It took me almost a year to get back and make art. So just being able to make the first painting of this series was something I am thankful for. After she was gone, this body of work became a very significant part of my journey. “, says Al-Qawi.
This series is unique in many ways. Al-Qawi has transformed her artworks into woven fabric, clay tapestries, crocheted & embroidered pieces, and Clay & Paper Mache work. Most of them are her mother’s clothes, threads, and materials. “I work with many materials, sometimes there are things that can’t be said through paper and paint alone, so I try to think of materials and objects that I could use in a way to convey my message”, she adds.
Al-Qawi has even made up a secret script to speak to her mother, and one can find it in various materials in the series. “I created a secret script so that I am able to speak to my mother openly and freely. The message in them is just for her, and I wanted them to stay between both of us”, she says.
‘Letters To My Mother’ is an ongoing series, and Al-Qawi believes as life progresses, new perspectives will invite new materials to join this cathartic journey. “I haven’t really thought what specifically I’ll add into it. But it’s a journey of loss that I want to record. The artworks are like a record of this healing and journey through grieving”, she says.
Some of our Al-Qawi’s other favourite works include Selfish Selflessness and 33 Days of Ibadat. Both these series have depth and have a thought-provoking message behind them. “I think sometimes we are willing to do something for somebody because it makes us feel good about ourselves. Selfish Selflessness revolves around this thought. It talks about even when you are being selfless, you do it because you feel good about yourself. For 30 days of ibadat too, the inspiration was my mother. I used to paint it every day from 4.00 am until 11.59 pm. This project also became more poignant for me. During this process, I used to talk to my mother a lot. And a few days after I finished, my mother passed away”, she adds.
You can check all her letters at Letters to My Mother by clicking here.