For me, identity is an ever-evolving culmination of the past, present and desires for the future, but when your people’s history and by extension your own is practically erased, the understanding of one’s identity is inherently limited. This longing to find those missing pieces, is what drives my art. Starting in the mid 1800’s, indentured laborers from India were brought to the Caribbean, Mauritius, Fiji, Natal, Reunion, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Myanmar as a substitute for slave labor, following abolition. Sugar planters needed a replacement workforce and Indians proved to be good cultivators. Little did they know they would be subjected to the same conditions under slavery before signing their contracts of bondage. My grandparents entered Trinidad and Tobago as indentured laborers, and this has been a point of departure for ongoing dialogue and research. In the words of Khal Torabully, father of Coolitude: “Art liberates what the archives obliterate”.
Working with photography, painting, installations, research and travel, my work which is often autobiographical, investigates themes of history and memory and how they inform identity.
Ms. Maharaj was born in Trinidad and Tobago and works between Colorado, New York City and Trinidad. Ms. Maharaj attended the University of Colorado, Boulder where she earned her BFA in 2015 and her MFA at The School Of The Art Institute of Chicago in 2017. She has received numerous awards including Martha Kate Thomas Fund, the Presidential Scholarship at Anderson Ranch Center and the Barbara De Genevieve Scholarship. Her works are in institutional collections including The Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, Joan Flasch artist book collection, Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, special collections at the University of Colorado, Boulder as well as numerous private collections.
Her work has been recognized with awards including fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Fountainhead Residency, Virginia Center For Creative Arts and Ankhlave Garden Project as well as The Golden Art Foundation and the McColl Art Center Residency in North Carolina. She will also be attending a year long residency at Project For Empty Spaces in Newark, New Jersey in 2022. Most recently, her work has been published in the second volume of Coolitude co-authored by Khal Thorabully and Marina Carter, an amazing volume of stories, poems and visual art which addresses Indian indentureship.
Ms. Maharaj will be installing her first public work in the summer of 2021 at the Queens Botanical Gardens in NY which will also include an indoor exhibition in 2022. She is also preparing for a solo in Denver that year as well.