visiting new and old corners of houston…

Sections of murals by Genzo; (L) Tu Lucha; (R) Every Beautiful Poem

“Women’s rights are human rights,” said Dr. Sima Samar when talking about the future of Afghan women at an event on March 30 for which I flew to Houston. Dr. Samar was speaking in the wake of the Taliban regime denying access to secondary school and college education for girls and women around Afghanistan. Her talk, as well as her conversation with me, was hosted by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and can be accessed via the Institute’s Youtube channel.

On the second floor of the building where we held the talk, are four murals by graphic design artist Genzo that were commissioned by the Institute (see above). The murals that wrap around the walls and feature a portrait of Edward Said, calls for immigration reform, recognize the history of Palestine, and much more.

My trip to Houston was overdue – I had not spent time in my second home since before the pandemic broke out. On my first night in the city, my friend Oskar picked me up, drove me around town to view public art and murals that have sprung up since my family flew away, including the two mosaic murals at a new midtown park (see below). On another evening, my friend Jaspal hosted a small gathering where I connected with friends I haven’t seen for years. Minal, who joined me for a few days, used her time to wander around Montrose with her elementary school friends all of whom are high school juniors and are exploring college plans.

Closeups of two mosaic murals at a midtown Houston park: (L) Mary-Am fountain by Shahzia Sikandar; (R) Wild Wonderland mural by Dixie Friend Gay (photos by Oskar Sonnen)

One morning, Minal and I carved out time to join a tour of the Buffalo Bayou Cistern, a 1926 former drinking water reservoir that was developed into a public art space after my family and I left Houston. During our tour, one of the tour guides, Dwendol Nelson, sang an acoustic song to showcase the sound effects of the space (see video below).

And on the day before we flew back to Los Angeles, I met my friend Marina Tristán for a walk along my favorite trail, Allen Parkway. I left Houston knowing that I would miss the Art Car Parade one week later, and that I did not get to see all the friends I wanted to visit, eat at all the restaurants I missed, or explore all the art spaces around town— though I did manage to see Shahzia Sikandar’s show at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the exhibits at Art League Houston, and the Black Lives Matter murals in the Second Ward.

Since my return to Los Angeles, my attention has been focused on Pakistan, where Prime Minister Imran Khan was removed from office after a no-confidence vote when the Supreme Court overrode Khan’s dismissal of the parliament. The interim government was sworn in today. Though I am not crazy about the Sharif family, I am happy that the democratic process has prevailed so far.