Khadim Ali

Invisible Border series, 2019 – 2020
Oil on canvas, and two tapestries, new commission

“As a child, home was the place where I was born: Quetta, Pakistan. I remember, the sky was clear and blue for days. The nights full of stars. A city with four seasons. Snow and cold and rain and the smell of soil. This home – my house – became more meaningful to me every day, as I grew older. Early one morning my mother put on my best clothes. She kissed my eyes and sent me to school. In class I came across different faces and colours: different sounds, languages, and dialects were ringing in my ears. Everything was new, unfamiliar and strange. But not so unfamiliar that my classmates and I did not understand one another. Over time, we all became very close friends. Our childish dreams bound us together – we wanted to be mathematicians, artists, scientists and teachers. Everything was normal. One day I suddenly encountered some people in the streets of my city, who I knew had come from elsewhere. Across the borders. Their skin colour and face were similar to mine. They spoke in the same language that I spoke – in my parents’ distinguished accent. I knew these refugees had come from the land in which my grandfather’s beloved was captured and sold as a slave. Seeing these faded and dusty but familiar faces changed my world – it was then I knew that my existence was forever linked to pain and suffering. They were mirrors showing my face. As I stood before them, I saw myself standing in an unknown house – not the one where I was born, but the one where fate would lead me. Suddenly, home also had another meaning: home meant escape. Of course, it was not just these refugees who had come from across the border. The enemies who had lurked behind them in the mountains had pursued them to destroy their last attempt at refuge. From that day on, the house in which I was born was devastated. My classmates from different languages, who had been my friends at school, detached themselves. Our shared dreams, lost. The distance between us grew so great that I knew I was no longer from this house. I became the ‘other’. I became one of the wearied, dusty faces from across the border. And although there was no boundary between us, and we were all citizens of one country, suddenly an invisible border of horror was drawn around me that made it impossible to get out.”

Text courtesy the artist
Co-Commissioned by Australia Council for the Arts, Institute of Modern Arts (Brisbane, Australia), & Lahore Biennale Foundation