United Arab Emirates • Dubai • From: September 20, 2020 • To: October 19, 2020


20 Sep - 19 Oct 2020

Phantom Limbs

Solo Show by Saba Qizilbash

Nationhood, citizenship, and identity are recent constructs that although fuelled a sense of solidarity among smaller groups, adversely created fractures between various lands and its populace.

Self-interest, power, security, and an implanted sense of otherization motivated the erection of barriers and borders that not only disrupted interaction but also impeded human migrations and transnational movements that have otherwise existed and seamlessly operated for centuries.

Saba Qizilbash’s hybrid identity and several geographical displacements propelled her to not only question the abstract concept of home, but also inspect how human movement is policed, altered, and restricted. Her recent body of work is an inquiry into the human migrations and the geopolitics across the South Asian landscapes.

The large-scale photographic drawings are highly detailed.

The artist’s use of graphite to reconstruct the landscapes is an autopsy to understand and dissect the politics of the familiar terrain and the memory its vestiges embody.

The locations and landmarks rendered in Qizilbash’s drawings are primarily those that have been drastically affected by the demarcation lines. These landmarks have undergone either a change of name, faith, or purpose. The artist retells the stories of separation and affliction that these sites have either experienced or witnessed and now withstand to share.

Qizilbash’s drawings hold the potency to bend time. The disoriented viewer is left conflicted and cannot adjudicate whether the scenes are from a distant bygone or an apocalyptic, post-human future. The visuals come across as both detailed documentation as well as a whimsical imagination. They look familiar and seemingly capture reality, but they also allude to a mutated, otherworldly paradigm. By deliberately conglomerating a myriad of ‘what ifs’ she weaves the past to the future and coalesces both fact and fiction to create an illusory déjà vu experience.

Qizilbash is also interested in regions around the border – the lines of control.

In her view, these no man’s lands have no nationality, no faith, and no ownership. A feeling of abandonment emanates from these sites – a series of ‘has/had been’. This post-humanistic topography signifies a future in which bodies are enhanced, replaced, or surpassed. An undeniable sense of privation is imbued in the tragedies which these sites recollect.

Migration and movement are intrinsic to South Asian identities. Qizilbash retraces historic migratory and trade routes but erases barriers and any human presence or protocols to facilitate an unhindered movement of human traffic. The cacophony from the melded sites reverberates a sense of urgency and discourages any rest breaks. These are neither destinations to arrive at nor the points of departure.

  • Text by Shah Numair Ahmed Abbasi

Artist Statement

My practice involves intricate graphite drawings that are a hemming/stitching of divided land within South Asia. I follow a detailed process of research in which I select Pre-Partition towns that were once known for their exchange, whether through active trade, historic train routes or religious and cultural festivals. In the past, I have focused on water body conflicts and natural trans-border transgressions (think Delhi-Lahore Smog, Kashmir floods and Siachen avalanches) that have led to the temporary blurring of the Radcliffe line. I observe and record the aesthetics of delimitation from my current geographical location in Dubai, UAE. The window in my studio acts as a metaphorical watchtower from where I observe the surrounding regions of interest. The roads, connected to highways that lead to abandoned towns, hope to take viewers along on a journey that explores the past, present and future all at once.

In my more recent work, I have mapped the walkable route of the 1700-mile, pre- 3rd BCE Grand Trunk Road that connects Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. From Kabul to Torkham, Khyber Pass to Lahore, Wagha to Kolkata, I have mapped the region village by village in the detailed graphite landscapes. My smaller works are literal segments of no-man’s land, Kos minars and highway bridges. My recent fascination with the GT Road stems from the desire to highlight various possibilities of horizontal trade and exchange within the South Asian region.

- Saba Qizilbash


10, Alserkal Avenue, Street 8, Al Quoz 1
Dubai, UAE
Saturday – Thursday, 10 am – 7 pm
Lates: 19 September, 10 am – 10 pm


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