Shift 1: Ahmed Idam Adam

Ahmed Idam Adam / Untitled / 2015 / Digital Image

Words by Sarah Thomson

Ahmed Idam Adam is a recent graduate from the Queensland University of Technology with a bachelor degree in both Business (Advertising) and Creative Industries (Interactive and Visual Design). He is interested in the design of digital products, particularly user experience design of products and services and has recently worked in web design. In this respect, he does not have a traditional art education and prefers to work within digital media including photo manipulation and motion pieces, experimenting with different mediums based on the intended function or meaning of a work. In his freelance practice, he has worked in print, digital, photography and motion design, including a sound responsive projection based on theories of physics, for the launch of Mous Magazine in July 2015. With every new work, Adam extends his practice into new themes and mediums and his work for Shift 1 will add a sculptural element to his digital practice.

The theme for Shift 1 is displacement, namely the experience of being physically displaced. The exhibition will be held at a residential setting in Paddington, Brisbane, and include four emerging artists who have either immigrated, emigrated or have a specific cultural background. Adam is ‘100% Maldivian by blood’ and moved with his family to Australia in 2004. Having spent half of his life here and being an Australian citizen, In Residence was interested to see how Adam’s creative practice could give a new perspective on the immigration experience.

After graduating from university, Adam spent a month travelling around the Maldives, visiting friends and family, describing this trip as a homecoming of sorts. The relocation to Australia from the Maldives in his early teens created strong feelings of culture shock as a growing desire to fit in created a rift between Adam and his Maldivian culture. He notes that his initial rejection of his cultural background when settling in Australia has been resolved with time and the growing understanding that ‘things aren’t quite as black and white as they seem and aren’t necessarily negative or positive, but part of who [he is] now.’

Many see the Maldives as a tropical holiday destination. In stark contrast to its picturesque natural environment, however, it is wrought with political and economic troubles. In 2011, protests broke out in the Maldives, leading to the resignation of the first democratically elected President, President Mohammed Nasheed, after 30 years of rule by President Maumoon Gayoom. Gayoom’s party was reinstated, led by the half brother of the former leader, Abdulla Yameen. The political turbulence has not eased with the recent arrest of the Vice-President in relation to an assassination attempt after an explosion on the President’s speedboat. The Maldives are rife with political corruption, increasing drug use and a surge in Islamic radicalisation. In revisiting his home, new adult perspectives and nostalgic memories collided for Adam. He notes that he still feels at home in the country, citing how comfortable he felt when he landed in the Maldives on his most recent trip.

Reconciling childhood memories with his now adult perspective of this ‘island paradise’ has led Adam to embrace the multifaceted nature of culture, identity and memory. Adam’s work for Shift 1 will address the ways both cultures have influenced the person he has become, using imagery from both Australia and the Maldives. His work confronts the duality of belonging to two cultures and the influence of experience on the formation of a person’s self. Rather than aiming to represent the experience of each culture, Adam’s work will project images from personally relevant moments and in the process address current cultural issues that have impacted him such as racism in Australia and the increasing Islamification of Maldivian society. The resulting work will offer a perspective that is uniquely personal, yet relevant to so many in an increasingly diverse Australia. Rather than attempt to find a neat, conclusive view of one’s cultural identity, the imagery in Adam’s work is multilayered and merges aspects of his cultural experiences into a hazy montage, forever changing and being impacted by the world around him. Adam notes that the Maldives will always be his home no matter where he lives and its influence will continue to shape his identity.

Similarly to Annelize Mulder, whose work will also be exhibited in Shift 1, Adam’s work documents the experience of immigrating to a new country and new culture and how ‘home’ has a continuing influence on one’s identity. In light of current discussions about immigration in Australia and globally, these stories are particularly important to make visible in creative and impactful ways, highlighting the difficulties of leaving home and trying to make a new one, but also the new perspectives that those from different cultures can offer.

More information about Ahmed Idam Adam can be found at