Reclaiming Home

Reclaiming Home - by Sehba Sarwar
Mixed Media installation for Coming through the Gap in The Mountain Exhibition at the University Museum.

In the Words of the Artist...
"You're still having visa problems even though you're using a US passport?" This was the response I got from my South Asian friends and relatives this past June. At the time, I was being thwarted in my attempts to apply for visas to travel to Bangladesh and India for a new project, Borderlines, that I'm starting up with Voices Breaking Boundaries, an arts organization that I founded 14 years ago. The project aims to explore issues between India-Pakistan-Bangladesh and the US-Mexico borders. 

Before I applied for the visas, I didn’t know I would encounter problems simply because I was born in Pakistan – especially if I was using a US passport and not a Pakistani one. Luckily, thanks to a Bangladeshi friend with connections, I was able to procure a Bangladeshi visa (but not an Indian one - for reasons too complicated to explain, even though my parents were both born in India).
On the flight from Pakistan to Bangladesh, I sat next to a Bangladeshi woman who was engaged to a Pakistani. Her first question to me was: "How were you able to get a visa?" And then she added: "My fiancé wasn't able to get a visa to visit me, so I had to come to Karachi."
While in Dhaka, every time I mentioned how much trouble I had with my visa, I heard similar stories from other people trying to get visas to different countries. Some said they didn't want to visit Pakistan because if they had Pakistani stamps on their Bangladeshi passports, they would be denied entry to western countries.
This is a familiar conversation for me. In Pakistan we talk about travel issues all the time, but I also know that “visa” conversation usually doesn’t go far in the US, where most citizens acquire visas upon landing at their desired destinations or fill out simple forms to get their passports stamped.

The installation I created, Reclaiming Homes, is as much about peace as it is about anger – it's my way of carving space for myself as I come to terms with the border-ed world in which we live, where certain people can move freely, while others encounter obstruction.


  1. I love how this artist uses artwork to create and communicate her life experience on a global scale.


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