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Migration and Movement

Artists move around the world, shifting and fusing their identities, cultural traditions, and artistic techniques.


Home Is a Foreign Place

Zarina
(American, born India 1937)

1999. Portfolio of 36 woodcuts and letterpress, mounted on paper, composition (each): 8 x 6" (20.3 x 15.2 cm); sheet (each): 16 x 13" (40.7 x 33 cm)

Born in Aligarh, India, to a Muslim family, Zarina grew up aware of the political and religious struggles between her native country and neighboring Pakistan, a majority-Muslim state, which had gained its independence from the majority-Hindu India in 1947. Zarina, once explained: “This piece is my narrative of the house I was born in and left in my early twenties never to return.”1

Home Is a Foreign Place consists of 36 woodblock prints, each of which presents a geometric, monochromatic design. To make these images, Zarina jotted down a list of Urdu words that she considered meaningful, such as “axis,” “distance,” “road,” and “wall.” She sent the list to a calligrapher in Pakistan, who wrote them in the traditional nastaliq script. Back in her New York studio, Zarina developed what she has described as “idea-images, which flowed from these words.” The resultant images serve as a visual vocabulary to express feelings of home, memory, and loss. “I understood from a very early age that home is not necessarily a permanent place,” Zarina said. “It is an idea we carry with us wherever we go. We are our homes.”2

MoMA Artist Questionnaire
Theresa Harlan, “Zarina: Embodiments of Home/Imprints of Existence”
“Paper Houses” catalogue, “A Conversation with Zarina in New York,” interview with Geeti Sen
Ibid.

A traditional form of calligraphy used mostly for Persian, Urdu, and Malay manuscripts.

A term loosely applied to any printmaking technique involving a relief image cut into the surface of a wooden block. The wood is covered with ink and applied to a sheet of paper; only the uncut areas of the block will print, while the cut away areas do not receive ink and appear white on the printed image.

A spoken, written, or visual account of an event or a series of connected events.

Having a single color. A work of art rendered in only one color.

Resembling or using the simple rectilinear or curvilinear lines used in geometry.

All-Natural
“I am drawn to natural mediums such as wood, clay, and paper,” said Zarina. “You can discover a fault here or there, you can find gradations in color.”3

Signs and Spirituality
Zarina once said, “In these prints I have used the forms I have worked with over the years, in a way my sign language of the line, vertical and horizontal, the diagonal, the triangle, the circle and the square. All deal with basic geometry. I regard geometry as a sacred practice.”4

Multimedia

AUDIO: Zarina discusses Home Is Foreign Place