anticolonial maps
for lost lovers
Mahreen Zuberi

Land as Memory, Knowledge, and Promise

After Ammi, I inherited her personal belongings. For years they remained untouched, folded in muslin as she had left them, creases of the cloth pressed in time.
On inspection, I discovered a
thin crust of dirt where her gharara touched the ground. The grime belongs to a different time
and space but has continued into this one. Ammi remains no more, but the trace of her moving in
a particular space and time is physically present in the thin line of dirt on the hem that followed
her as she moved in this world.
Land is not stationary, neither is it rigid or dormant (as in a map). Earth, mud, clay, soil, sand, dust, dirt, grime–they travel, transform, transpire through space and time.
In the
course of events that may or may not involve human arbitration, a mud island takes birth in the
middle of the sea, Saharan sand blankets the snow in Switzerland, clay from a river bed bakes
into a pot, and a gharara is passed down from mother to daughter.
Land is memory, knowledge,
and promise, all entwined. It is the past, the present, and the future interwoven. Land is also a
territory bounded by political lines. A resource that can be mined. A demarcation that can be owned. Our modern understanding of land, it seems, entails human beings dominating it to measure, contain, or legitimize its being. The map in this way could be amongst the enduring tools of man to conquer and control land and in turn that what it holds. If we are to disregard
the colonial and modern methods of containing and quantifying land, what other ways are there to perceive it?

Mahreen Zuberi

Mahreen is a Karachi-based visual artist and educator. She is an alumna of National College of Arts Lahore and coordinates the Fine Art programme at the Department of Visual Studies, University of Karachi, while completing her M.Phil, from Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, and raising two incredible humans and a cat.

Mahreen’s studio practice explores non-hierarchical and heterogeneous structures of “making” while investigating forms of knowledge acquisition that do not depend solely on an empirical or empiricist approach. She has exhibited widely and her work is part of prominent art collections including Queensland Art Gallery, Australia, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan, and Devi Art Foundation, India.


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