An Ealing based artist, architect and activist has become one of eight finalists in a competition to win £25,000 by the Victoria and Albert museum (V&A).

Sofia Karim, 44, entered in her project Turbine Bagh into the annual Art Jameel competition, this year called Jameel Prize: Poetry to Politics, beating over 400 applications to get to the final.

This year the exhibition will be the first in the world to focus solely on innovative contemporary design inspired by Islamic tradition, with the winner of the cash prize being revealed when the exhibition opens in September 2021.

Karim’s work was sparked by, but not limited to, the anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Act in India and the predominately female-led protest Shaheen Bagh against these laws which occurred in  Delhi in December 2019.

Ealing Times: Assortment of samosa packets from the Turbine Bagh supporting Shaheen Bagh and ‘Where is Kajol’ movement.Assortment of samosa packets from the Turbine Bagh supporting Shaheen Bagh and ‘Where is Kajol’ movement.

She said: “I was very, very happy, because I didn’t think something so political would be accepted.

“The Jameel prize is about Islamic art, but what’s important about Turbine Bagh is that it encompasses islamophobia and also fascism, Hindu nationalism and caste oppression. 

“What’s happening in India is much broader than this.”

After a peaceful protest on March 28th 2020 at the Tate Modern was cancelled, Turbine Bagh continued on social media, inviting artists and thinkers from across the globe to engage with these struggles by designing their own samosa packets which will be on display during the exhibition.

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Karim added: “When Shaheen Bagh started, I read that food was really important. The first greeting is ‘have you eaten?’.

“I thought I could print protest art on samosa packets, and charge these humble, everyday objects with political significance.”

Samosa packets continue to be made by artists around the world addressing ongoing human rights crises in India and across South East Asia.

Ealing Times: Samosa packets calling for the release of Rohingya photographer Abul Kalam.Samosa packets calling for the release of Rohingya photographer Abul Kalam.

When the exhibition opens a panel of international judges, including V&A Director Tristram Hunt and British author and design critic Alice Rawsthorn will crown the winner.

Hunt said: “This year’s Jameel Prize is the first iteration to focus on contemporary design and attracted a record number of entries from around the world. 

“Those on the exceptional and diverse shortlist were selected for their innovative and imaginative projects, with strong links between Islamic traditions and contemporary design.”

The free exhibition Jameel Prize: Poetry to Politics will be open at the V&A from 18th September-28th November 2021.

Featured image credit: Lylah Sanderson

Other images credit to V&A Press Office