I am Sehba Sarwar—

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

Sehba Sarwar interviewing rock star Patti Smith on KPFT Pacifica Radio (2010); photo by Marcell Murphy

I have been writing and organizing in the community for more than twenty-five years, and have have taught high school and university courses and community courses, given talks and offered readings. Please contact me if you're interested in bringing me to your campus or community!

My work tackles immigration and border issues and has appeared in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Creative Time Reports, ASIA: Magazine of Asian Literature and elsewhere. On Belonging, my newest multidisciplinary project that I am currently touring, 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 have leadership training and have served on the board of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, was scholar-in-residence at Rice University’s Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality. Over the years, I 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 was based in Houston for more than two decades. I am currently living in Los Angeles, California with my husband and teenage daughter. from where I produce writing and art, and offer workshops and talks.

UPDATES

Recent

Short Story: "Railway Track," a murder story to be published in Houston Noir anthology, edited by Gwendolyn Zepeda, Akashic Books, New York; release and readings scheduled during May 2019.

Recent

Novel and Readings: Release of second edition of novel Black Wings (Veliz Books, El Paso, TX) with readings in Austin, Houston, Los Angeles, Portland, San Antonio, and more; February 2019 onward.

December 2018

Poetry: “On Belonging and Other Poems” in Papercuts Nomad issue, edited by Sorayya Khan. Desi Writers Lounge, January 2019.

October 2018

Reading: Offered reading from Borderlines essays at California State University-Los Angeles' Queer and Women of Color Writers Series, Los Angeles, CA.

April 2018

Reading: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 2018

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

February 2018

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

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.

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 offer a range of services including: readings, workshops, courses, or multidisciplinary performances/installations. I look forward to hearing from you!

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