Jennifer Pattison

Recently, I discovered the instinctive urge to communicate with my baby through song. I mostly sang made up rhymes to my daughter because I couldn’t remember the words to lullabies that had been sung to me as a child. It wasn’t until listening to my mother sing to my daughter that subconscious memories came flooding back. It was this poignant moment that inspired me to make this work. I was interested in how lullabies were passed down the generations from grandmother to daughter to grandchild and wondered if this everyday habit might connect the two communities, mothers in Patiala and the Black Country, under the same moon but thousands of miles apart.

My photographic practice often uses stories of imaginary worlds as a creative springboard. Rice Pudding Moon & The River of Dreams takes inspiration from the rich folkloric traditions of Punjabi loris particularly those sung by the Bazigar communities, the Sufi Saint Sakhi Sarwar and lullabies more widely recognised and popularised in Bollywood cinema.

The imagery of the lori is rich with cultural references. They allude to Punjab’s rural heritage: its fields of cotton and wheat, mothers spinning and weaving and homes where warm milk, ghee and sugary pinnis are consumed. But they also depict universal truths about a mother’s love for her child. In conceiving my work, I wanted to play with these two essential elements. My photographs whisper of a bygone time steeped in rural traditions and evoke warm earthy scents of fertile lands bathed in soft moonlight. Of little ones lying in their mother’s laps dreaming of the uncle in the moon, of pink balloons and delicious treats.

It was during my conversations with women in Patiala and the Black Country that I came to understand how the traditions of lori singing no longer connect with their lives. Contemporary lifestyles in both countries work against their preservation. New mothers and young people are no longer in the habit of coming together to sing folkloric songs of old. But I know how much my daughter loves these stories and Rice Pudding Moon & The River of Dreams is my way of re-imagining the Punjabi lori for a new generation of Punjabi mothers.

Rice Pudding Moon & The River of Dreams was commissioned by Creative Black Country as part of Arts Council England and British Councils Re-Imagine India cultural exchange programme, working in partnership with Multistory (UK) & Nazar Foundation (New Delhi).

Girl Gaze: Journeys Through The Punjab & The Black Country, UK is a photographic exploration of the Punjab and diaspora communities in the West Midlands through the voices of young girls and women. The exhibition brings together newly-commissioned work by four women artists: Jocelyn Allen (UK), Andrea Fernandes (India), Jennifer Pattison (UK), and Uzma Mohsin (India).