salman toor at the whitney

why i came to nyc: stunning work by salman toor, born in lahore, at the whitney. his first solo exhibition: stories of queer brown men as they negotiate the distance between new york and pakistan. the expressive faces and hands in his paintings are exceptionally rendered. so many things that strike one as immediately recognizable – the turn of a head whilst sitting down for tea, the passive acceptance of extra security checks at customs and immigration, the anxiety of being questioned by pakistani cops when on a date, etc. am still here. still discovering.
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whitneymuseum #salmantoor #lahore #pakistan #newyork #newyorkcity #art #figurativepainting #oilpainting #queerbrown

Borders Can Be Borderlands

My piece in Mason Street’s Winter Issue 2021 published today.

‘It used to be that borders were formed naturally, by oceans and mountains, carved out by the physical contours of the earth’s surface. There was something poetic about these landforms, extending from foothills and valleys, to plains and plateaus, all the way to seafloors. They were shaped by wind and water erosion, pushed up by the collision of tectonic plates, forged by volcanic eruptions, sandblasted and weathered over millions of years. They were substantive, grounded in history.

The borders that came out of the crumbling of empires, in the 20th century, were different. Cartographic inventions meant to divvy up world resources and power, divorced from indigenous logic or priorities. A few sheets of stolen paper.’

More here.

To be published in a literary magazine!

Last year in Sept, in the midst of working on my film and several other projects, I wrote a longer piece and submitted it to Mason Street for their Winter 2021 Issue “Frontiers and Borderlands.” My piece is a collage of personal and collective history, poetry, and art. It combines many voices and points of view, but it starts with my mother’s story and how she experienced the violence of the 1947 partition. I got an email from the editors today. They have accepted the piece!!! It should be published online in Feb. I am incredibly thrilled! Writing is something I’ve loved since I was a child. Although I continue to write for films, articles and presentations, it was important to try and write for a literary publication. I was nervous. It’s an art form I have not invested in for too long. This validation means the world to me.

To happier times

2020 was an unbearably rough year for too many. We all had our challenges, but some suffered much more than others. Our hearts are overextended. May 2021 be kinder to us.

To beauty, to the vastness of the universe and the magic of nature. To happier times:)

‘Something That Happens Right Now’

I haven’t told this before. By our house on the plains before I was born my father planted a maple. At night after bedtime when others were asleep I would go out and stand beside it and know all the way north and all the way south. Air from the fields wandered in. Stars waited with me. All of us ached with a silence, needing the next thing, but quiet. We leaned into midnight and then leaned back. On the rise to the west the radio tower blinked—so many messages pouring by. A great surge came rushing from everywhere and wrapped all the land and sky. Where were we going? How soon would our house break loose and become a little speck lost in the vast night? My father and mother would die. The maple tree would stand right there. With my hand on that smooth bark we would watch it all. Then my feet would come loose from Earth and rise by the power of longing. I wouldn’t let the others know about this, but I would be everywhere, as I am right now, a thin tone like the wind, a sip of blue light—no source, no end, no horizon.

—William Stafford

seeing ‘the changemakers’ at RMSC

at the rochester museum & science center today where we saw ‘the changemakers’ exhibit which is stunning. recognized so many beautiful women friends who are part of the exhibition. two pieces from my art series ‘this heirloom’ are on display there. one is a graphic collage with my mom and her sister, when they were little girls. the other is called ‘embroidered dreams’ and it’s a tribute to my paternal grandmother, niaz fatima. my grandmother became a widow when she was quite young and struggled to raise and educate her children, in a highly patriarchal family system. i was wondering how she would feel about her picture hanging in a museum in rochester, new york, a tribute by a granddaughter she didn’t see grow up. it felt empowering.
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rmsc #thechangemakers #beachangemaker #womensupportingwomen #womenempowerment #pakistan #rochesteny

The Exhausted Bodies of the Colonial Spectacle

Photography creates a power imbalance between photographer and subject. As Susan Sontag has said: ‘To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge — and, therefore, like power.’

When we reuse, post/share, or repurpose problematic photographs we should be aware of our own enmeshment and responsibility in that sensational and exploitative relationship.

Here is a fantastic treatise on the subject by Collectif Cases Rebelles. It’s their response to the publication of ‘Sex, Race & Colonies,’ a 544-page coffee table book filled with sexualized images of indigenous people being abused by white colonizers. The book is a lurid reproduction of colonial, racist, and misogynistic violence.
“To the question of whether these photos should be shown or not, we respond unequivocally: shouldn’t the people in the photographs be the first to answer?”

Frankenstein in Baghdad

Halfway through Ahmed Saadawi’s ‘Frankenstein in Baghdad’ – macabre, surreal, comical, poetic. Also heartbreaking in how it portrays life unraveling under war and occupation – how our sense of ‘normal’ can shift precipitously. Masterful writing. Thank u so much Mazin M Hameed for recommending it and thank u Muna Lisa for reminding me of this book.

I am part of The Changermakers exhibit at RMSC

Hey everyone, I’m thrilled to be featured in this new exhibit at RMSC. It’s called ‘The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World?’ and it highlights stories of women visionaries and trailblazers from Rochester.

It’s opening at the Rochester Museum and Science Center on November 20. You can visit the exhibit in person (no worries, there will be safety protocols in place). It’s a historic representation of woman power.

Learn more about The Changemakers: RMSC.org/changemakers #BeChangemakers

Ngayuku ngura (my country)

Peter Mungkuri (born in 1946). Ngayuku ngura (my country), ink and acrylic on linen, 2018″This is my painting about the country where I was born. I grew up in a traditional way, none of us had any clothes and we’d never seen houses. Back then we lived in the bush, slept in the warm sand and lived on the bush tucker. My painting is where it all started. This country is my home. I know this land all over, this is strong country. These things, everything, is my memory – my knowledge. I like painting my country, I like to paint the memories of my country.”