What Is Home? is a long-term project that I began in 2013 during my two-year artist residency at the Mitchell Center for the Arts (University of Houston).
In 2014 – 15, when awarded an Artistic Innovations award by Mid-America Arts Alliance, I expanded the project into a multidisciplinary initiative through which I created a performance/installation at a Houston neighborhood center.
My performance featured readings from my memoir-in-progress.
I spent the year interviewing friends, artists and family members about their reflections regarding “home”, which I posted on my blog and exhibited at the show. Using my saris, carpets, MRI films and ashes of my notebooks, I pushed the lines between public and private, creating space for audience members to engage with my work and delve into their own narratives, to encourage them to identify with their home.
Alongside my own performance, I also offered two long-term storytelling workshops, one of which created space for documented and undocumented women to share their journeys, while the second targeted South Asian youth.
Many stories that women and youth generated were published in Voices Breaking Boundaries’ Borderlines Volume Two. Multiple private and public gatherings were held to celebrate the students’ and women’s writings.
During the course of my project, I was invited to speak at TEDxHouston, for which I shared stories about my journey my daughter’s experiences in a Houston public school, and my blog posts were exhibited at Houston Public Library.
I continue to work on my larger manuscript, What Is Home? even as I use the theme to create new performative and visual art work. In summer 2013, I participated in a larger exhibition curated by Robert Pruitt, Coming Through the Gap in the Mountain on an Elephant, at Texas Southern University, for which I created a mixed media installation Reclaiming Home, using threads that i created with spices as well as burned photocopies of passports.
Feeding Ourselves, Sehba Sarwar's performance with Christa Forster and Sara Kumar at Rothko Chapel's annual symposium; photo courtesy of Rothko Chapel
In spring 2016, Houston’s Rothko Chapel invited me to perform at their first annual symposium, and I collaborated with Houston-based artists Christa Forster, Yaksha Bhatt, and Sara Kumar to perform stories that I collected during my What Is Home? storytelling workshops when I worked with immigrant and undocumented women.
Additional What Is Home? Materials:
What Is Home? residency was funded by the University of Houston’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at University of Houston and by the Texas Commission on the Arts. My performances, installations, workshops and blog were funded by: Mid-America Arts Alliance’s Artistic Innovations grant that was funded by National Endowment for the Arts, Texas Commission on the Arts, and foundations, corporations and individuals throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas; Building Bridges: Poetic Voices of the Muslim World, presented by Poets House and City Lore, in partnership with the American Library Association and the Houston Public Library; and Voices Breaking Boundaries. The project was co-sponsored by Neighborhood Centers Inc.
Ongoing & Additional Projects
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.Universities and non-profit organizations based in Texas can apply for Texas Commission on the Arts grants to fund Sarwar’s workshops, readings and/or installations since she serves on the Texas Touring Roster.