A multidisciplinary project by Sehba Sarwar

On Belonging

Through my On Belonging multidisciplinary project, I explore my life as transnational citizen alongside my family’s history of migration and displacement.

On Belonging is a poignant, engaging, and thoughtful meditation about how our unique stories—of where we come from and how we define home—bring us together.

—Michelle White, Senior Curator, Menil Collection

My On Belonging project includes a 40-minute live performance and a site-specific installation that was launched in February 2018 at the Menil Collection (Houston, Texas). Through the production, I explore my journey as a transnational citizen alongside my family’s history of migration and displacement, while creating space for community members to share their journeys. In September 2019, I will be creating an On Belonging installation at Scripps College.

In my performance, I incorporate my history interwoven with voice recordings by my mother, daughter, husband as well as audio renditions from comments extracted from survey response cards that were completed by more than 450 community members in six cities. Using the cards that I collected, I created a site-specific art installation on an oak tree at the Menil Collection campus, which I wrapped with ajrak fabric from my home city, Karachi, Sindh (Pakistan)—the ajrak design is also claimed by residents in Gujarat and Rajasthan, India.

Sehba has an amazing ability to paint masterpieces evoking time, place, and feeling with words. I am always in awe. It’s essential to make time for On Belonging to feed the spirit and keep the soul intact.

— On Belonging audience member

On Belonging was launched in February 2018 at Houston’s Menil Collection campus to complement artist Mona Hatoum’s 2017-18 Terra Infirma art exhibition.

Each time, I initiate the project, I distribute comment cards to gather community member responses about journeys that they have undertaken. For the project in Houston, residents in Austin, Boston, El Paso, Houston, Karachi, Los Angeles, McAllen, Montreal, Washington DC completed cards. Their mothers were born in countries including Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Canada, China, Ethiopia, France, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, Indonesia, India, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, USSR, and USA; only 7 percent of 450 participants reside in the same location as their mothers’ birth cities.

View Video

“On Belonging poems and more” on Nomad, a Papercuts literary magazineRead More »
Menil Collection event announcementRead More »
Video excerpt from performance at the Menil CollectionView here »
Upcoming On Belonging installation and Black Wings reading at Scripps College, Claremont, CARead More »
View images from my On Belonging performanceView Here »
View photos from my On Belonging  installationView Here »
Read my essay about On Belonging in the Houston ChronicleRead More »

I am available to tour On Belonging with all or some of the project components (performance, site-specific installation, workshops, and community conversations). Please contact me if you’re interested in bringing On Belonging to your city or campus!

On Belonging has been supported in part by the Menil Collection; Mount Holyoke College Alumna Fellowship; Mid-America Arts Alliance, the National Endowment for the Arts, Texas Commission on the Arts, and foundations, corporations and individuals throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. The project was developed through my 2012-14 residency with the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and through my work with Voices Breaking Boundaries.


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!


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