A distant Place
Zoya Siddiqui

Does home exist in the vase of flowers you put
next to your bed last night?
Does it exist in your grandmother’s photograph?

Does memory provide you with shelter?
Do you find comfort in remembering that movie your family enjoyed so much?

Is family formed in faith or love?

Does fear bind you to your clan?

Would you open the door for a stranger?

Are your dreams yet to be realized in another land?

A blank white textured wall. Next to it is a quote “I’ve travelled the whole world on map, on Google Earth, on the computer. I travel a lot. While I was there I would look at European countries. Now that I’m here, when I zoom into Pakistan and my home, I can’t see it properly.”
A black room with a window. In the window is a church and a wire. Next to it is a quote “I am forced to hear church bells. Believe me, my ears are desperate to hear the azaan.”
“Here I say “ciao” to people. It means goodbye. Sometimes I playfully say ‘jao’. They ask me what that means. I tell them that in my language ‘jao’ means ‘go’.”
A floor with brown textured marble blocks and a flash of light on the floor. Next to it a quote “If you climb the stairs up here, there is a balcony and the entrance to the house. Right in front is a hall with a small kitchen. It’s a small hall, small kitchen. Not too big. One one side with the stove is a room. One the other side is another.”
A balcony with a bright white chair and houses. Below it is a dark skyline with sunset. Next to it is a quote “These days there is sun. When it’s Maghrib and the weather gets cooler. I leave my cell phone, everything, and go out to the balcony where I sit on the chair, legs up, staring at the sky, thinking.”
Greenery with small white flowers. Next to it is a quote “If I get time off I go and lie down in a park 25 minutes away from here on cycle. It has the most trees here.”
Black night sky with black moon and a house. Next to it is a quote “In Pakistan, I'd take my cup of chai up to the rooftop at Maghrib time and lay my head on the pillow, looking up at the moon till Isha. The stars would be moving. I do that here as well.”
Architectural drawing of a house.
Architectural drawing of a house. Next to it is a quote “Our gate is quite big, and when I enter, there is a small garden to my right. In front of me are eight rooms, two on this side and two on the other. Four are in front. Two kitchens in one place - those we made according to future use. And right there are our stairs, to go to the roof.”
A courtyard with architecture. Beside it is a quote “If you go to the roof, the backside is empty. There is water and puddles there, so for now it's useless. Four acres ahead, there is a community. You can see houses from afar, there is emptiness between them, nothing. You can see tiny people. One can keep looking and not get bored.”
Brown, pink and blue ceiling with abstract design on which a fan and lights are mounted. Next to it is a quote “Whenever I came back home from school, sprinting with excitement, I'd throw my bag there, and Mama would give me water, as is normal. Then I'd lie down under the ceiling fan. Mama would ask me to change my uniform so I would change it.”
Road surrounded by shrubs and trees. Below it is a central pathway surrounded by trees and a morning sky. Next to it is a quote “When it would get cooler, I'd take my books there. Sitting on the building's rooftop, with trees of mango, plum, peach all around me, I'd read my books on the chair. There was a stream nearby. The day I go back, after meeting my family, I'll go there first.”
A bed covered with a bed sheet containing blue geometrical design, a pillow and a blanket.
A bed covered with a bed sheet containing blue geometrical design, a pillow and a blanket. Next to it is a quote “I left in the morning after prayers. There was fear this might be my last journey. My Mama used to beg for anybody else to go instead of me. I was the youngest. When leaving, I saw everything with my last eyes. One sees with a different point of view.”
Close up of the previous setting. Next to it is a quote “I don't see many dreams. You may call it dreams with open eyes or something else, but I'll be sitting and chatting with a friend, and during the conversation I'll feel strange like we chatted here before. Maybe we did. You can call it dreaming with open eyes.”
A black room with a small window from which 3 colourful houses are visible. Next to it is a quote “I have seen death upclose. Bullets have passed through my hair.”
A black room with a small window from which 3 colourful houses are visible. Next to it is a quote “I believed I had sinned a lot in the past; I was being punished for it.”
I crossed at night. I can't tell you if the borders were beautiful. At daytime, we would be in camps or wherever we could arrange for food.
Black and white drawing of a wire fence and a door on a crumpled paper. Next to it is a quote “There is a wire fence wall here, which is 10 feet tall, and covers the entire border. And with it below is a thorny wire fence, and three rounds of it. There is a lot of wire fence here. Every two minutes, a police car passes for a round and every acre, there are two gunned army men. You know they say a border where not even an ant passes? It was that. Helicopters above us, dogs behind us.”
A thick black scribble of a geographical border. Next to it is a quote “It was a dry and mountainous region. There were three to four hundred men. We had to stand in a van. If you close your feet, how much space is that? Like they make animals stand?”
There was a boy who caught fever and couldn't walk anymore. Nearby was an old army bunker. They took him inside and locked it up. I think he must have died there.
Close up of rocks. Beside it is a quote “I have seen corpses on that mountain, of men who had tried to pass. There were bones too. We stepped over them to move ahead.”
A thin black flat scribble of a geographical border. Beside it is a quote “When I sat on the train here, the police removed me and threw me in jail. Three hours later they released me. Then I tried desperately to get beneath the train seats. They threw me back. My condition was terrible. I had shrunk due to hunger. I couldn't stand on my feet.”
A thin black diagonal scribble of a geographical border. Beside it is a quote “The police would leave us at a place, abundant with fruit trees, to return home. The boys would say,
A thick vertical black scribble of a geographical border. Next to it is a quote “A car picked us up. And it was an important car, some prime minister's, so that they wouldn't get suspicious that such a car would pick men up. That rich men could do such a thing as well.”
Television screen with Z written on top and on the screen is a warrior in a blue costume holding a sword.
Television screen with Z written on top and on the screen is a warrior in a blue costume holding a sword. Beside it is a quote “Beyond the road was a drastic drop. We had to get down with ropes. It was like the movies.”
A Google satellite view.
A similar Google satellite view. Next to it is a quote “Far from the camp was a nice lake where I spent most of my time. It had beautiful bathing birds. Seeing them, I used to contemplate how these too were God's creatures and living their life in peace. Whether they had brains or not, they were free.”
Close up of a Google satellite view. Next to it is a quote “That lake was beautiful. Its every edge, every movement, when I close my eyes, is in front of me as if I were there.”
A blurred close up of plants and trees. Next to it is a quote “My mind kept wandering to my family, this terrible life choice I had made, what my Mama would be doing, if food was ready at home that hour, how somebody would be watching TV. She who is waiting for me, what she would be thinking…”
A clear morning blue sky with a small silhouette of a hovering aero plane.
A similar setting but with a quote - “It was slightly dark. We ran as fast as we could, till we were quite far from the border. We reached a stream with bushes and sat there all day, gazing at the sky. When planes flew by, we imagined that we too would travel home like that one day. Imagined, imagined…”
A person holds a creased postcard. Next to it is a quote “She came with me through the entire journey. Everything else, however tiny, was left behind. But I took care of her and she came with me.”
A fabric with repetitive mango patterns and a black thread.
A fabric with repetitive mango patterns and a black thread. Next to it is a quote “I couldn't get medicine without documents. I was helpless. Then I remembered that Mama used to tie a thread around the Quran and then tie it on my neck. I never believed in it. I used to ask Mama what this had to do with my stomach or headache. But here I put it on with complete faith and I was cured.”

Curatorial Endnote

Places of belonging are built with lived encounters and collective moments.

In this COVID 19 pandemic, many people experienced loneliness in their familiar spaces; some were trapped in places they did not call home while others returned to a home that they had not set foot into for years, maybe decades.

How have these experiences and observations changed our understanding of ‘home’ and the people we share these spaces with? Are we far away from a place and yet closer to people or close to a place and emotionally distant from people?

Zoya Siddiqui is a keen observer of her own surroundings as well as the immediate ecosystem that she inhabits. The conditions of her community and perspectives of Muslim and South Asian diaspora lie at the core of her practice. She allows us to be witnesses to her observations on the fractured identity of a religious community. Although Zoya looks at a greater sense of belief and belonging through cultural practices she also challenges the social knowledge of religion and the nation state. Her artistic practice examines how this knowledge influences emergence, transformations and social identities.

Familiar objects, people and places evoke feelings of care and comfort while unfamiliar places elicit fear of strangers and strangeness. In the exhibition, these moments materialise as images within images that uncover multilayered relationships.

Bio Zoya Siddiqui

Zoya Siddiqui is a visual artist based between Lahore and Vancouver, working primarily in video, performance and installation. Siddiqui’s practice has most recently been exploring the longing and imaginaries for a utopic world, within Muslim, Pakistani or South Asian communities that she either identifies with or works with in close proximity. Working through research material, conversations and varying cultural media, she has an interest in ways that these imaginaries are shared in. Siddiqui completed her MFA at UPenn with the Lawrence Shprintz Award and the Fulbright scholarship. She is represented by Shrine Empire Gallery in New Delhi and has been part of international residencies at the Vasl Artists’ Collective Karachi, Theertha Performance Platform in Colombo, In-Situ UK, Delfina Residency UK, and Triangle Arts Association New York.

List of artworks in order of appearance

Personal Shrines, Selection of Set Of 35 Metallic prints, 2016.
At a Distance of But Two Bow-Lengths, Or Even Nearer, Video, 2018.
To God Shall The Alien Return, Video, Length: 7’ 51”, 2019.
Melancholies of the Migrated, set of 69 prints, 2018.

Zoya was kind to give access to the landing page video and opening videos to At a Distance of But Two Bow-Lengths, Or Even Nearer and To God Shall The Alien Return.


We are grateful to the artist Zoya Siddiqui for allowing us to show her work in this exhibition.

Curators: Arnika Ahldag and Vaishnavi Kambadur, MAP
Inclusion Manager: Kunal Mehta, MAP
Accessibility Partners: Saksham, New Delhi and Kavita Seth, voice over artist, and Gaurav Verma, Indian Sign Language Interpreters Association (ISLIA)
Video edits/subtitles for the exhibition: Shreya Chitre, MAP 
Graphic Design: Abraham John, MAP
Digital Exhibition Development: Kavita Jhunjhunwala, MAP and Sukanta Dutta, Mass Software Solutions India 
Communications: Priscilla Roxburgh, Krittika Kumari and Shubhasree Purkayastha, MAP
Programming: Shilpa Vijayakrishnan and Shruti Rao, MAP

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this exhibition are those of the artist and do not necessarily reflect the position of the museum