Citizens of Nowhere 2019

This project about the experience of citizenship, nationality and identity on a political, cultural and social level. The project is a personal response to the 2016 Brexit referendum when the British population voted to leave the EU and the increased xenophobia that followed. I was born in Poland and moved to the UK as a child and the referendum was the first time when I became aware of my ‘otherness’ as I was unable to vote.
I took analogue portraits of myself, my sister and my mother at home in London. To imprint the journey of migration into the image, I soaked my film rolls in English Channel salt water. This results in different degrees of distortion, which visually mimics the required process of "naturalisation."
Physical journeying underpins any migration journey and to incorporate movement in my work I printed out the portraits and created an animation. The portraits are in constant flux, forever changing and adapting, like our immigrant identity in the UK.

Performing Herstory 2021

This project investigates memory, family, and the idea of origin, and has been inspired by family albums. I moved to the UK 20 as a child and my identity has been shaped by my departure from Poland. My understanding of Poland, its history, and culture has been influenced by fragmented memories, nostalgia, and clothes my mother brought with her from Poland. I look at photos of my ancestors to understand where I came from and to reconnect with a part of my identity which I spent suppressing as an immigrant in the UK, trying to assimilate into the British society.

Using self-portraiture, I wear my ancestors’ clothes and bring to light the war-torn complexity of Eastern Europe and conflicting identities. Each image is inspired by conversations with my mother, family photographs, and stories of each garment. I “wear” and “perform” my family history, and challenge the idea of a single origin, and show the multiplicity of cultures that are fused together to create our own sense of self.

the border | line 2021

In September 1939 Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. At that time, Germany acquired 48.4% of Polish land, and the remaining areas were placed under German administration known as the “General Government”. Non-German population was subject to Germanisation, compulsory resettlement, economic exploitation, and eventually extermination.
A large number of Polish people were expelled from territories intended for German expansion and forced to settle in the General Government area. There was a lack of food, fuel and medical supplies and thousands of Poles were killed for resisting German forces or for other trivial reasons.
I was born in Poland and grew up in the UK. Because of my accent and my name, my whole life has been underpinned by strangers asking me “Where are you from?.”
I worked with my grandfather who was a child when Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany to retell this historical period from a personal, and intimate perspective.

Note: The text above was written by the Artist. No modification was made by COCA.

Zula Rabikowska

United Kingdom

Zula Rabikowska is a Polish photographer based between London and Kraków. Her practice is influenced by her own experience of migration and of living between two cultures and languages. In her work, she explores the themes of national identity, displacement and belonging. Zula often works with digital and analogue photography and incorporates archival images and documents to challenge conventional visual storytelling.

Zula works with multimedia elements to examine historical and political events in Poland and Eastern Europe and their impact on and identity. Zula has an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from London College of Communication and works as a freelance photographer in London and Kraków. In 2020, Zula co-founded the Red Zenith, which is a platform for supporting womxn and non-binary people with a link to Central and Eastern Europe.

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