I am Sehba Sarwar—

a transnational writer, workshop leader, artist and community activist tackling gender, displacement and border issues.

Sehba Sarwar with Voices Breaking Boundaries staff members Ana Laurel and Armando Silva; photo by Pin LIm

My work has been featured in the New York TImes Sunday Magazine, Creative Time Reports, ASIA: Magazine of Asian Literature and other publications.

Through On Belonging, my newest multidisciplinary project that I am currently touring, I offer performances, installations, and workshops examining personal and community migration patterns. The project is part of a  memoir that I began in 2013 while artist-in-residence at the University of Houston’s Mitchell Center for the Arts. My most important work in Houston may have started in 2000 when I founded Voices Breaking Boundaries (VBB), an alternative arts organization that tackles social justice issues at a local and global level.

VISIT ON BELONGING |  VBBARTS.ORG 

I served on the board of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, was scholar-in-residence at Rice University’s Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality, and have participated in panels with the Ford Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts and more.

A member of Macondo Writers Workshop and American Leadership Forum, I also co-hosted a weekly show at Houston’s Pacifica Radio Station KPFT 90.1 FM, where I interviewed Houston-based artists as well as international celebrities including Patti Smith.

Sehba Sarwar Activist Writer
Materials from Sehba Sarwar's blog that were exhibited at Houston's central library and are currently stored in her archives at the University of Houston

I was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, and I am currently based in Southern California with my husband and teenage daughter. from where I produce writing and art, and offer workshops and talks.

UPDATES

Spring 2019

"Railway Track," a murder story to be published in Houston Noir anthology, edited by Gwendolyn Zepeda, Akashic Books, New York.

May 8, 2018

Talk and reading at California Lutheran University's English Department banquet, Thousand Oaks, CA.

April 8, 2018

Read excerpts from my essays "That Long Monday Afternoon" and "Invisible Lines" in VBB's Borderlines publications with Pakistan Arts Council at USC's Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, CA.

March 15, 2018

Talk “Borderlines: Telling South Asian and US-Mexico Border Histories through Art and Performance," University of California San Diego, San Diego, CA.

March 9, 2018

Reading at Pasadena Central Library, Art Night Pasadena, CA.

February 27, 2018

Poetry and essay readings at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Festiba 2018, Edinburg, TX.

February 15, 2018

Roundtable speaker for Poets & Writers (west), South Pasadena Public Library, South Pasadena, CA.

AWARDS & ACHIEVEMENTS

Awarded Mid-America Arts Alliance Artistic Innovations grant for my project What Is Home? project, Kansas City, USA; Jul 2014

Awarded Mount Holyoke College Alumnae 1905 Fellowship for completion of my memoir What Is Home?; Apr 2014

Accepted into Texas Commission on the Arts’ Traveling Artist Roster, Austin, USA; Jan 2014

Accepted into the American Leadership Forum-Houston/Gulf Coast Chapter, Houston, USA; Apr 2013

Accepted for a two-year Artist-in-Residence program at the Mitchell Center for the Arts, University of Houston, Houston, USA; Aug 2012

Accepted into the National Leadership Institute for the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC), San Francisco, USA; May 2012

Co-designed co-performed in Voices Breaking Boundaries’ art car Revolution and awarded first prize in the Free Speech Category at the 2011 Houston Art Car Parade, Houston, USA; May 2011

Accepted into Texas Commission on the Arts’ Traveling Artist Roster, Austin, USA; Jun 2010

Awarded membership to Macondo Writers’ Workshop, San Antonio, USA; May 2009

Honored by Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi, Pakistan; Jan 2009

Honored by Houston’s First Lady Andrea White at We Are All Neighbors luncheon, Houston, USA; Nov 2008

Featured Poet on Border Senses, El Paso, USA; June 2007

Honoree for community service and writing at Living Smart’s Annual conference, Channel 8, Houston PBS, Houston, USA; Feb 2007

Recipient of Houston Arts Alliance’s Creative Artist Award for excellence as an artist, Houston, USA; Jan 2007

In 2014, Kairn Klieman PhD, Associate Professor at the University of Houston, taught a graduate public history course in which she and her graduate students researched the history of Voices Breaking Boundaries (VBB), as an example of a social justice organization whose work is intertwined with local and global issues.

Klieman’s students interviewed me as well as Voices Breaking Boundaries’ board, participating artists, and community members. Based on research material that Klieman’s students gathered, the University of Houston’s Friends of Women’s Studies acknowledged the impact of my work by creating permanent ongoing archives of my writings and VBB’s history in its Special Collections. The archives feature my artistic career and VBB’s extensive, multi-sensory history, and were made available to the public in fall 2016.

PRESS

Sarwar’s voice continues to ring out clear and true, breaking boundaries no matter what format she chooses to express herself in.

—Bina Shah, Sampsonia Way, September, 2014

CONTACT

I am an author and speaker, an artist, and a community and cultural activist.

If I can use my talents and passions to inspire you or your network to push boundaries and become involved in our communities, please connect with me. I am open to schedule readings, workshops, courses or multimedia installations; my On Belonging performance and installation is available for touring. 

CONTACT SEHBA SARWAR

Sehba Sarwar Art Car
Front hood of my art car, Digital Meets Pakistani Truck Art, featuring buraq sticker images from Karachi; photo by Burnell McCray