Sehba Sarwar ::: ProjectsWhat Is Home?" by Sehba Sarwar

About What Is Home?

During my 2012-14 arts residency at the Mitchell Center for the Arts (University of Houston), I researched and developed my memoir What Is Home? The narrative delves into different streams including migration and labor, family history, activism, and health. In 2014-15, through an Artistic Innovations award by Mid-America Arts Alliance, I worked on my manuscript and also expanded What Is Home? into a multidisciplinary project through which I continued to explore issues that connect me to two border regions - South Asia and North America.

For the project, I held a special performance on May 9, 2015 at Baker Ripley Neighborhood Center (scroll down to read about the show or view images here), and I am currently working on completing the manuscript. Also, over the past year, I have offered storytelling workshops for women/mothers (at Baker Ripley Neighborhood Center) as well as for South Asian youth at Westbury High School; students and women went on to participate in public events around Houston.

To stay connected to my project, remember to check my blog, where I post reflections as well as interviews with friends, family, artists and community members; view images from my productions on Flickr; and follow me on Twitter @sehbasarwar

Please click here to view my 2013 TEDxHouston talk What Is Home?

Building Bridges: What Is Home?
2-3:30 pm, November 21, 2015
Blog Exhibition: November 21 - December 29, 2016
Houston Public Library, First Floor Gallery, 500 McKinney, 77002
$ free

During October and November 2015, I led women's workshops at Baker Ripley Neighborhood Center and at Somali Bantu Community of Greater Houston (SBCGH). In the gatherings that included writing, food and community, new and veteran entrants to Houston and the U.S. delved into issues of displacement, the state of being transnational, and the urgency one faces in coming to terms with being in-between.

The outcome of the workshops was shared with the larger public at a special reading and conversation session at Houston Public Library'sCentral Library in the First Floor Gallery.

The afternoon included readings and writings by Sukhada Tatke and Azeb Yusuf and students Purnima S. and Hemangi P. I hosted the afternoon and read poems and an excerpt from my memoir-in-progress.

An exhibition of interviews from my blog, What Is Home? will remain on view at the library till December 15, 2015.

The reading and exhibition are part of 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. The workshops and performance/installation are cosponsored by Neighborhood Centers Inc., and Voices Breaking Boundaries.

Performance / Installation: What Is Home?
3-5 pm, May 9, 2015
Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center (6500 Rookin St, Houston TX 77074)
$ free

On May 9, as part of my long-term What Is Home? project, through which I explore maps, home and memory loss, I exhibited an art installation and offered short readings from my memoir-in-progress. What Is Home? is an unraveling of the different strands of my journey as a transnational citizen: family history and borders; protest in a changing world; migration and movement; and health. Pushing the lines between public and private, my installation / performance created space for audience members to engage with my work and delve into their own narratives.

Westbury High School students Purnima and Hemangi, who participated in my storytelling workshops, exchanged stories and string-tying with audience members, while women workshop participants offered home-cooked chatt and chai Pakistani style, and body care including neck-shoulder massages and facial threading.

View images from the afternoon here.

To learn more about the background of my project, read Charisse P. Weston's article "Meaning & Memory: Sehba Sarwar Explores Home" in Arts & Culture, March 16, 2015.

More What Is Home? 2014-15 events

April 25, 2015: Students Sagar, Purnima and Barun translated their stories into Nepali for their parents and into English for Westbury High School staff members. The morning ended with a meal prepared by Sagar's mother. The gathering was hosted by Sagar and his family at his apartment in southwest Houston. View images from the afternoon here.

April 1, 2015: Morning tea was served along with home-made snacks at the apartment home of a workshop participant; reflections, food and final stories were shared.

March 12, 2015:
Westbury High School students from Nepal-Bhutan and India shared their stories and performed narratives by documented and undocumented Pakistani and Indian women. This event was free and open to the public and was held at Baker-Ripley Community Center; a lunch was served after the public talk. View images here.

This project was initated through a two-year artist residency (2012-14) with the Mitchell Center for the Arts, University of Houston; my residency was funded in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts. In 2014-15, my project was supported in part by an award from 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.

What is home? is developed in part through a residency with the University of Houston's Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and is cosponsored by Neighborhood Centers Inc., and Voices Breaking Boundaries.

Sehba Sarwar ::: ProjectsAudience members experience my installation at Honoring Dissent/Descent, 2009; photo by Eric Hester

Other Projects
Borderlines is an ongoing long-term project initiated in Fall 2013, one that I visualized and developed for Voices Breaking Boundaries, where I serve as Artistic Director/Founder. The project explores parallels between the border regions of South Asia and North America.

VBB living room art: Homes and Histories (Fall 2012) focused on exploring parallels between Houston's Freedmen's Town, a township created by the first freed slaves of Texas and Pakistan's Baloch/Makrani/Sheedi community that has roots in East Africa.

VBB living room art: Women Under Siege (spring 2012) was inspired by the forced "security" created by metal detectors at the entrances of Abdullah Shah Ghazi's shrine in Karachi and Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in Houston. Alongside directing the production that featured video, performances and installations by more than 10 artists from Houston and Karachi, I created two short videos Recording HerStory and Protecting Space. To read a CultureMap feature story about the production, click here.

Click here to read more about additional installations