Vera Hadzhiyska is a Bulgarian multi-disciplinary artist based in England. She has an MA in Photography from the University of Portsmouth. Her practice is informed by the study of migration, cultural and national identity, history and collective memory.
Her work begins autobiographically, tracing family narratives and shared traumas. Through the use of photography, archival documents, audio and video installations Hadzhiyska examines historical and political events in Bulgaria and their impact on people’s lives and identity. Her latest series With the Name of a Flower, investigates the forced name changes of the Muslim population in Bulgaria in the period 1912 – 1989.

With the Name of a Flower  is a multi-disciplinary project which investigates the forced name changes of the Muslim population in Bulgaria (from Arabic/Turkish names to state-approved Slavic/Bulgarian ones) in the period 1912 – 1989. These events are considered from a family and personal viewpoint, examining the memories of people who were directly affected by the change of names, and their descendants.

Name changing goes deeper than giving up one’s birth name. For many Bulgarian Muslims (Pomak, as they are referred to) the change of name came hand in hand with repressing their religious identity. In a society where being Muslim conflicted with the State’s distorted idea of Bulgarian national identity, bearing a Muslim name had become undesirable. People who identified as such were forced to hide that part of their identity to survive and protect their families. This led to a subsequent generation, whose heritage was robbed by social and political intervention in the family narrative.

My work is created drawing from historical records, archives, interviews with relatives, and personal accounts. I am interested in the effects these historical events continue to have on the cultural, religious and national identity of the Muslim communities in Bulgaria and their collective memory. Through my research, I question how the preservation or purposeful omission of these memories from the family narratives causes a change in the sense of identity and belonging of the younger generations.