History has seen many turning points: specific, significant moments when something has started to change. In late 2021, as pandemic restrictions ease, we seem to have reached such a shift. But, for many, feelings of doubt, ambiguity and insecurity remain. How do we begin to process this? What does the future hold? Where does art fit in to the picture? Looking to answer these questions is Diffusion 2021, Wales’ international photography festival. This year’s theme is Turning Point, presenting exhibitions and events which highlight the power of creativity in times of crisis.
“Periods of uncertainty can provide the momentum for positive change,” says David Drake, Director of the festival and Cardiff’s Ffotogallery. “Few could have predicted the events of 2020, and even less so the scale of impact this global health crisis has had on all our lives. The pandemic has revealed our vulnerability and fragility, and it has also shown us how important creativity is to our wellbeing. Creative expression anchors us in the present, shows our resilience and allows us to re-imagine the future.”
2021 marks the fifth biennial edition of Diffusion, which takes place throughout October. A month-long programme of exhibitions, interventions, performances, events and celebrations transforms both physical and virtual spaces. In Cardiff, new exhibitions by Wales-based artists such as Janire Najera, Huw Davies, Anna Sellen, Paul John Roberts, John Crerar, Richard Jones and Nik Roche will sit alongside major international exhibitions such as More Than a Number, featuring 12 leading photographic artists from across Africa. Among them is Wafaa Samir, whose work is shown above (right). There’s also a focus on LGBTQ+ stories – Sunil Gupta’s Christopher Street, 1976 and Allie Crewe’s You Brought Your Own Light are on view in a partnership with the Iris Prize, Wales’ LGBT+ film festival.
Other featured artists include Maryam Wahid, who explores her identity as a young British Pakistani woman in Motherland. The series (above left)taps into the artist’s family history and broader experiences of women from the Pakistani diaspora – many of whom relocated to the UK in the 1970s and 1980s. It’s a powerful tribute to the hard-working wives, daughters, mothers and grandmothers who have contributed so much to the nation.
Elsewhere, Lydia Panas’ Holding On (top of page) explores the power of love, intimacy and trust between friends and family members. Through intimate portraits, Panas shows how human connection can give us the strength needed to face periods of stress and uncertainty. “The women in Holding On touch, they hold, they rely on one other. The series is about moving forward together,” the artist notes.
1-31 October. Discover the full programme here.
1. © Lydia Panas, Liza and Casey
2. © Maryam Wahid
3. © Wafaa Samir