anticolonial maps
for lost lovers

The project brings together over twenty artists from across the global south – understood as a relation and not a geopolitical locus – to actually practise such a relation as something other than the “process” of value production, taking on with relish and a sense of possibility, the unresolved relation between nostos and polis, and not seeking to settle it. Together, we attempt a collaborative archive of “shared knowledge” – by way of maps, phenomenologies, autoethnographies – in motion, composing, assembling, and manifesting ways of reading, being, seeing, sensing, and allow “minor” itineraries of political struggle to become evident, especially where the destinations have been lost or not reached, or appropriated, or looked different than they were expected to. The deterritorial yet located nature of this “mapping,” and the difficulties therein, are not lost on us. Still, we rely on these difficulties to keep alive those epistemic struggles which promise new subjects and institutions and a future beyond capital and colony, especially when many of us feel policed by humanitarian, democratizing, or liberatory projects that also replicate orientalism, Eurocentrism, and US exceptionalism, with their purveyors refusing to learn any new lessons.

anticolonial maps

Anticolonial Maps for Lost Lovers proceeds from the perspective, location, and time of “the unrequited” in articulating a politics of “another love” (Abbas, 2018), where political desire and its pursuits might be able to be thought otherwise. What might those “shared knowledges” look like, in which Edouard Glissant (1990) finds our redemption on the open boat — not as exceptions, but as people, as those whom Cèline Chuang calls “diasporic descendents of the displaced” (2021). Eschewing platitudes that plague contemporary salvationist discourses on the left and the right – both betrothed to unexamined epistemontologies of the wheres of our lifeworlds – this project explores mix of narrative, art, pedagogy, and theory that enacts an ongoing and capacious historical materialist method for a political understanding of location, space, and attachment, that could unlock forms of presence, connection, appearance, motion, and relation to the objects of our desire and commitment that allow the production of knowledge and political action to be something other than acts of occupation, conquest, colonisation.

A curated summer 2022 residency, Jehānuma organized by GCAS-Jehān and Hic Rosa, with the support of the Bard Centre for Human Rights and the Arts, Bard College at Simon’s Rock, and Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, laid the groundwork for the production of a digital archive of the process and the artworks alike, as one offering – a Chapter I, if you will – of “shared knowledges.” A launch of this archive, and a series of engagements with it, including physical exhibits where possible, and mini-symposia and panels, through Spring and Summer 2023 to invite this cooperative archive to grow.

Safi Alsebai

A Suite of Anticolonial Maps and Matters

Lesley-Ann Brown

Black Girls on Mars

ADHD Bossy

Coloniser, Eraser

Crater Invertido

Crater, Carte, Cartograph

Sheetala Bhat and Laxmi Priya

Home Yet?

Ali Jafri and Maham Zehra

I Pity the Garden (in the company of Forugh Farrokhzad)

Asma Abbas

Karbala, Derritorial

Mahreen Zuberi

Land as Memory, Knowledge, and Promise

Radhya Kareem

Lost Gardens Do Grow Back

Diana Yaseen

Lost Youth

Cèline Chuang  /  Ashu Rai  /  Charlie Yates

Map in Song

Bushra Saleem

My Map is a Portal

Fizza and Zoya

Notes from a Conversation


Parallel Journeys

Ayesha Alizeh and Yashfeen Talpur

Putth: Looking Backwards

Vladimir Shcherbak


Safdar Ali

Rezoning the Dead



Babar Naeem Shaikh

Surrendering Identity

Anum Sanaullah

The Kinetic Weaves the Static

Samra Mansoor


Are we trying to reform the traditional map? Or use it as a base? Do we accept the traditional meaning of a map as a representation of reality? Questioning this, then comes the first impulse: to look at a map and change it, impose something else on it | Talking about the graveyard that carries graves of people who are unnamed makes me think of how unnamed emotions are buried with loss. How does the association to a marked grave find closure and put an end to hope of "finding" loss? | Imagining and thinking on a prayer mat relates to your exploration. It made me think of my mother always telling me she comes up with the best ideas and designs while on the prayer mat and while in prayer. It also took me back to my nani's patched up old prayer mat that she adored so much that she did not want to let go of it. The idea of seeking and thinking through /with an object like a prayer mat gives a different meaning to the act of connecting with oneself and beyond. | I am really taken with your idea of the prayer rug as “first map.” It really calls forth the idea that it is worth searching for something before cartographies as we’ve known them (legacies of capital and colony), both at a personal level—to ask someone, "What was your first map?" as you’ve asked yourself. And a historical one—"How did people map in the premodern world, before modern colonialism as we’ve come to know it? "Are those questions just searching for a new picture of the world? Because, more than that, this idea of the prayer rug as first map asks even more of mapping than what we do with the map on the page. It is more than a surface to locate this or that place. It locates or orients the worshipper in time and place, within, for example a community, whether that community likes it or not. A queer Muslim does not have to ask permission of anyone to unroll their mat and pray. I’m constantly drawn to questions of queerness in/and Islam, not only in locating the queerness that has always existed in Islamic history, but thinking of worship and belief as acts that are themselves queer. (Not to mention the personal dimension.) I am even thinking here, Asma, of what you call a "hermeneutics of longing," because it’s that recognition of Muslim longing, in poetry and in practice, that was what initially parsed out for me how to even come to terms with my own queerness. | I know we discussed Kashmir and the holocaust in relation to the similarities in the laws enacted by India and Germany for your exploration. Another thing that crossed my mind when listening to you discuss suffering across time and space is Arundhati Roy’s essay "A Graveyard Talks Back" and her conceptualizing her book's story as two graveyards in conversation with each other. Which builds a relationship through space. I was just thinking what kind invoke time, or suffering/ the making of death as the present/past/possibly future. Excited to see how you will explore this through sculpture! | So moved by your project and I wish I was in Karachi to talk more. During my asr namaz my mind kept going to you and I had to start the namaz over at least thrice. I was also thinking about your mother and how unequipped we are as a society to deal with emotions. Your journey is also her journey in a lot of ways. When Renata spoke of how addressing religion is taboo in the art world, I could completely relate to ot because it's something that I have been struggling with too. |

How to address a contemporary struggle to find God? I feel sometimes we wrap it in a language or through concerns that are more familiar/accepted in the art world or academia. Possibly to fit or for the lack of not knowing how to otherwise. | The invoking of lost lovers also reminded me today of some couplets from a poem by the medieval Maghreb poet, contemporary of Ibn Khaldun (and early theorist of plagues and germs) Lisan al-Din ibn Al-Khatib. [And of course, "tormentor" here means "lover"] My tormentor has come in the fog of dusk, like a pearly planet on the horizon And I said: “You've enlightened me, good visitor! Weren’t you afraid of the watchmen on the road?” And she responded, teary-eyed, before me: “Those who ride the waves do not fear drowning!” | I think at some point today I went through a momentary burnout. I hardly produced any work last year that was for myself which was very daunting because I am a visual thinker and, on most days, when I cannot do anything else, i can still draw. I think i struggle with language and how it operates as a binary and am excited to challenge that through this residency but also hoping to start a more visual approach tomorrow onward. With a practice that revolves around illustration (with written word sometimes) I feel accountable/responsible to do what I can do best, which is tell stories. | In one of her books, bell hooks says that she was too exhausted to fight and not too exhausted to let go. My main drive comes from this need to be audacious. Maps signify a place and I am thinking about a non-place, somewhere transcendent, relying on magical realism? (exaggerations within sufi kalaams, Qur’anic verses, moon splitting into two, river splitting into two, the act of looking/turning towards the sky Ibrahim looking at the sun and stars for god, "we are closer to you than your jugular vein" questions everything we know about sacred and profane and which patriarchal organizations decide who gets to believe/love whom) To exist outside of a binary (language, borders, cities, et cetera) and understanding queerness as love and something that’s all-encompassing. Thinking about words like freaks, dragons (Baldwin) and staying with trouble, sticking to it (Haraway) to better understand my place amongst all these concrete structures. | Inspiration: understanding of my pain: to detach my emotions and my pain from the violence I experienced indirectly, not to get a rush out of that pain but to understand and use it to inform my process. Accountability: I have been thinking about how to position myself in this process considering my personal experience with violence, but the fact that I am not a direct victim of it can I still call myself a victim? Perhaps I can, but it is not about me. I don’t want to assume a position where I own the trauma as something only, I can talk about or that it makes me a better person and that’s what I feel accountable for. To not let it become about me, but about the direct victims of violence who were failed by the state, the government, the authorities. | Vine Deloria, Jr., talks about "liberation" through "rearrangement, " "reexamination," and "reconstruction" of knowledge. I have used desire to enter my work. At that stage it was a desire for owning land. In order to understand and release myself from it, I deconstruct. Time and space and the many ways of experiencing them allows me the liberation Deloria talks about to rearrange, reexamine, and reconstruct.

Since we are collaborating, we started with a ton of conversations, and organically ended up sitting silently in front of each other locking eyes, forgetting that we had started being inspired by Marina Abramovic's idea in "The Artist is Present". We seemed to be quite in synch earlier, and thought of our space as a rendezvous where we get to focus on the intensity of emotion as time and space. We realized on day three of the residency that we needed to quarantine from each other and focus on our individual process. | To those who don’t know, this is a poem by a Pakistani poet, Fehmida Riaz, titled Aqleema, referring to Cain and Abel’s (Habil and Qabil) story of committing the first violence over the sister named Aqleema (Who was going to marry Aqleema?). Just like in "Persephone the Wanderer," Louise Gluck reframes the myth by questioning if Persephone has any agency, or situates her as a wanderer, in this poem, Fehmida Riaz wonders what Aqleema's place is in the myth, and if her mind is of any use! Aqleema’s head seems to be something everyone, Habil, Qabil, and perhaps even the voice of God has glossed over. | Deciphering mihrabs, the circulation of a Tawaaf around the Ka’aba (walking as subjugation as being one with God/earth). Also olive branches and other fruits and flowers mentioned in the Quran because I am characterizing botany and plants in my drawings. | When I think about the mother as the first archive and of homelessness for those who don’t have that archive, in contrast to the Quranic ayahs where Allah tells us that they’re closer to us than our jugular vein, I’m drawing parallels between what home can mean then. This very imagery comes in too. Also looking at plants mentioned in the Quran for my groot-like creatures for the prayer mat haha. | Splitting of the moon and the Nile looking at themes of destruction/rebirth in what we have been taught, as Gibran says life goes forward and we are the children of tomorrow. I am trying to imagine rebirth as a tool for anti-mapping. | Our mother's body being our first home also makes me think about when my body was a home. It is a complicated relationship because it comes with fear, Hope, pain, and sometimes loss. A loss that stays in the mind and body without physical traces. Muscles remember... it is interesting how you said you are Imagining rebirth as an anti-mapping because I feel I am constantly in the cycle of a rebirth... and because we are so deeply tied with where we come from... we can't escape our families.... | I was reading this book you recommended which is called "My Father's House -- a series of paintings by Will Barnet" by Thomas Dumm in which it says something like families can come to be prisons as well. But I like the idea of making the skeletons dance... haha | In Tando, her mother's village, the grilled doors had names on each door which I found very different from the homes in my parents' hometowns. Using the different doors, I was musing on the ethics of a visitor, of a city-dweller, and how they consume ‘"rural space,". and the ease with which when can romanticise rural life or break the privacy and sacredness of a space that perhaps they may not have the right to consume, to consume by occupying.

There was someone here with a note on imitation as a way of beginning to articulate, and a place that one can then delineate from (I hope I am not misremembering). I have been fixating on visual form a lot. When I try to write about the visual, I realize that the writing always carries me somehwere else, leads me astray. Just some notes on how the process has been shaping up for me. | priya said to moomal: i am growing a garden here my own garden | moomal said to priya: i am making a mound and there will be emptiness inside it so that I can rest in it | priya said to sassui, can I rest on the top of this mound so that I can see the stars while I fall to sleep? | sassui said to marvi, I don’t need a place, I will just be here, this sand is enough | marvi said to noori, this place looks like what I left, I begin to make the same sounds as I did before, this tree looks too familiar | noori said to all of them, I will make a boat for all of us to use. | Phuleli Canal. We sat here on the way and started sketching. A peaceful experience. While drawing I was often thinking of the artist painting rural life. In front of us was a body of water, nature, and women washing their clothes. While doing this you and me were discussing our expectations from our drawings, so my focus in the sketch shifted towards us instead of "the view" or the "painting" that could be made. | This is all mixed up with all my earliest memories.....all of my aunts were seamstresses.. Their labour clothed us, decorated our home, and put food on the table . My grandmother was born in Bursa, Turkey and fled her home around 1914. My mother and aunts and uncle were born in Syria and Beirut...... and i think about their journeys all the time. | I will share some visuals with you promptly.. again, thank you for letting me into this nourishing and safe space. I look forward to working alongside you all. | Having missed some conversations in between I felt a little out of touch but on the last day of the residency, things seemed a little less foggy. Since then I have been trying to find a way to explore my 'artefact/motifs' a little better and have realized that may be there is no chronological order to this shared story. | Sending a "memory map" below. Any thoughts or poetry are appreciated! | Over the last two months you and I have shared conversations in the form of letters, visuals, voice notes, and silent sitting as part of the anticolonial maps residency. We spent days in isolation and spent some forty-eight uninterrupted hours together prior to the isolation and have navigated through this labyrinth of half-broken, half-built walls of what is right now a work in progress. | Today the words I am thinking about are peripatetic womanhood; wild, free, fleeing, daring to think beyond binaries, borders and coloring outside of all the lines drawn out for them by the "other/ others." | What is freedom? Is accepting the transformation freedom? "Everything withers--death of one part to become another. It transforms, changes form difference"-- Deleuze

this text was also unexpected like the found glass and the tree. so, I found a lot of black and white rocks the other day. Some had more black spots than others. I want to start looking at the white. White is blank. Let’s write a new story on it. The story of anticolonial mapping and the places its taking us. Night is followed by day; everything has an anti. Let’s find the anti of the night. If we were to take it as just one night, isn’t tomorrow a new day? Love | When it Rains--Is it the earth or a naughty girl, under thick trees, clad in a sari of bleeding colours, trying to hide her body from even naughtier waters--and failing miserably. These walls were the hardest to break because sensory skyscrapers are invisible. And to locate them, where we felt them.. what they obstructed, where the pain lay and the entities that entered as we hammered them down. Wasn't a gentle breaking I have to admit. It was an explosion...we were shooting in the dark so we broke down almost every damn wall we saw/felt/sensed/touched. We shook...we broke...and we were bare. | Compared with England, Pakistan is a poor and humble country but she aches for it, because to be thirsty is to crave a glass of simple water and no amount of rich buttermilk will do. | If we bury our sins in the earth… will the earth still speak to us? Will the sea refuse to meet us at the shore then? | The idea of anticolonial mapping initially began for us from the idea of what we recognized as a meeting point of 'land' for her and a 'crashing wave' a fleeting emotion for me. The land where the tide hits is what she identified as home. For me the home was transient. Is land stationary or does it shift? This hitting of the wave on land corresponded to a feeling of a transience that touches and leaves. In its fleeting moment of heightened love/emotion/bliss, it is often interrupted by a sudden rupture of sorts, a slow rupture manifested as sudden or a sudden natural calamity, so to speak. I began to investigate how the two sentiments, that of rupture and that of a fling-like emotion, coincide and run parallel in our memory. She started to see the two as companions "saathi," not as two separate entities but one. | I hope you keep some things solely for yourself. A film you cannot talk about in public, a favorite song you do not feel like sharing in your stories. Favorite lines from a poem carefully copied into your personal diary, a book quote you'll never forget. An island of little things that remind you only of yourself. Things that are too fragile to be shared, things that--perhaps, over time--have learnt to escape the superfluity of words. And when someday, tired of travelling through the lives of others, you suddenly feel an indomitable urge to return to yourself--in all its urgency--you know what's waiting for you, because you have allowed yourself the privilege of being protective of all the things you love, all the things you call home. | It is eid day here so was drowned in meeting people, chooriyan, great smelling food, and gratitude. | I see you, I hear you | I understand the feeling. What does it mean to you? | When you remove the boundaries it's also a kind of ungluing. I feel like what was bound together has split, it is in a million pieces and I don't know where to start collecting them. A part of me curses me for ever beginning this journey. Wasn't I okay drawing myself in a linear world of lattes and politically correct conversations? | As I sit by the river today, tears roll down uncontrollably. But, today the tears are of sadness, a breaking, and I know that no matter what the world around us is like, if the heart is torn, you are torn. I also know that no outside force can mend that heart, only I can. | How boundless could i make my life which for all its smallness still exhausts me. Balancing act of all my margins all my conjugations of cannot. If i live through the night i will bleed into all my edges until I am no longer a stroke of some careless man's pen. | After a particularly liquid lunch [man ] was said to have created [country] with a stroke of his [implement] & isn't a map only a joke we all agreed into a fact & where can i touch the equator & how will i know i am touching it & where is the end of my country the beginning of the next how will i know i've crossed over. | As these undercurrents were invisible and intangible, we were learning the language to communicate through our present experiences of these two months. During this time, I moved to another city for two weeks and she travelled to another as we silently experienced the half-broken map, half-broken walls, beginning to interact with our new surroundings. Uncannily enough at this point she connected with the waves and I, with land. These are snippets of our process.