I've lived half my life in a post-9/11 world. Most people my age weren't as deeply affected as I felt by that awful event; it turned my world upside-down. My family and I were evacuated from Pakistan, where I was born and raised by American aid workers, and as a result I ended up attending 4 different high schools in three different countries.
No wonder my art now focuses on themes of place, identity, boundaries and belonging. The aftermath of the tragedy left me rootless, out to sea, drifting in the unknown at a time in my life when I was both impressionable and vulnerable. I turned to art making as a way to wrestle my demons, find an escape and create something new in a world that often felt like it was cracking apart.
As time has passed, I've started to see the silver lining.
For the last 11 years I've lived safely and comfortably in the United States and have had the opportunity to travel and visit my family in amazing places across the globe. While I've had to deal with residual fear for the safety of some of my family members who continue to live in places considered "high danger" posts, I myself haven't feared for my life in years. That's a blessing.
I've been able to channel some of these experiences - both through travel and interchanges that have affected my worldview - into my artwork through various series. Windows is the most direct interpretation of this, based on photos I took in my many travels. In Nomad I tried to work out some ideas around belonging, boundaries and (lack of) roots. Flawless was inspired by wanting to create something out of my experiences as a female in three distinct cultures – which weren’t as different as one might think. Finally, She Was Just a Dream addresses the more psychological effects by exploring themes of memory, illusion and loss. I know this approach to my work will continue even as my imagery changes; I find myself searching for familiarity, and, indeed, humanity in the commonplace.
I’ve also developed a knack for connecting with people – something that as a shy child, I could never have imagined. Now, when I move somewhere new, I seem to find friends and network with an ease that continues to surprise me. I find a perverse pleasure in the irony that events of 15 years ago meant to wreak havoc and spawn hate have instead made me look for connection, commonalities and community no matter where I am.