18 APR - 9 MAY, 2024 


Translation: Carla Lamoyi

Interpretation: Fabiola Talavera

Production: Todo Woooow, FOCO Lab

Documentation: Natalia Gaia

Rihla (Annihilation) 

Digital photograph, 2020

Concept & direction: Arshia Fatima Haq

Camera: Jonas Becker

The Second Coming of Fatima 

Gypsum, gold leaf, velvet, dirt, sound, 2019

Sound produced in collaboration with

Nour Mobarak

When the land of flowers required blood, 

Our throats were the first to be cut

Still, the owners of the garden say, 

This land is ours, and not yours.

Romantic Scene 

16mm film, digital video, bleach, copper chloride, acetic acid, 2019

subterrains | zer-e-zamin, a solo exhibition by Arshia Fatima Haq, offers a profound exploration of identity, memory, and societal ruptures through a multidisciplinary lens spanning film, sculpture, sound, and photography. The show presents three selected works: Riḥla, The Second Coming of Fatima, and Romantic Scene. In the dimly lit expanse of the gallery, a sense of anticipation hangs in the air, palpable yet ineffable, inviting the viewer to inhabit a space between what is liminal and what lies beneath the surface. “subterrains”, a portmanteau that intertwines the ethereal depths of the subconscious with the boundless expanse of landscape, forges a dialogue between the hidden realms below and the expansive vistas above. “zer-e-zamin”, as its mirrored word in Urdu (زیرِ زَمِین), invokes both the physical and metaphorical aspects of subterranean matters. 

Arshia Fatima Haq works through counter-archives and speculative narratives and is currently exploring themes of indigenous and localized knowledge within the context of Sufism. Born in Hyderabad, India, and based in Los Angeles, Haq’s multidisciplinary practice unfolds like a tapestry woven from threads of memory, history, and imagination and weaves together narratives that resonate with echoes of struggle, survival, and redemption.

Riḥla (Arabic: رحلة) is a word that means both a journey in search of knowledge and the account of that journey. In 2018, Haq began an unchronological series of images depicting the idea of the "riḥla" as a journey turned inwards to the self. The work shown here depicts the stage of initiation, in which the traveler turns away from the outer world, blooming like a flame in the ardor of love for the divine. For Haq, this idea has other layers of divergence in her own life – from traditional paths of domesticity and towards embodied histories and memories that, despite being buried, insist on surfacing in animate shades of henna or of tarnished gold.

The Second Coming of Fatima serves as a poignant meditation on the legacy of colonial violence and its enduring impact on the female body, reimagined through the lens of the iconic spiritual figure of Fatima within Islamic hagiography. The Koh-i-Noor, a legendary gem sourced from the Golconda mines of Andhra Pradesh in the 18th century, now rests among the British Crown Jewels, steeped in a history of bloodshed and ill fate. Haq's work confronts the objectification and erasure of feminine lives and histories that underpin such acquisitions. Through gilded throats cast from women who were separated by the Line of Control dividing India and Pakistan during Partition, Haq reflects on the physical and emotional tolls of colonial extraction that insist on surfacing across generations. Accompanied by a sonic rendition of an Urdu poem, her work explores the nebulous process of mourning, offering a cathartic release and a path to healing.

Romantic Scene is a short film examining the tropes of gendered violence in commercial Bollywood films from the 70s and 80s that Haq was exposed to during her childhood and adolescence. Almost every major film from this era would portray sexual assault and physical violence towards women in an archetypal format designed to simultaneously horrify and titillate the audience. Haq worked with this archival footage, reshooting the videos from internet sources onto 16mm, then erasing the bodies of the victims physically from the film using various chemical processes directly on the celluloid, frame by frame. Her process was inspired by Naomi Uman’s seminal film “Removed”. Similarly, Haq worked with the bodies of the women in these Bollywood films, to signify the erasure of agency and sanctioning of violence in the public consciousness that was encouraged by these scenes and sequences.

on seeing with one’s ears: seeking sama’ 

Lecture performance on 2 MAY, 8PM

Arshia Fatima Haq conducts a listening session that explores Sufi devotional music and the concept of sama’: a spiritual atmosphere established through the relationship between performer and audience, a state of ecstasy or absorption that can transform consciousness. Haq first experienced sama’ in her early years, before she had words for it, at the storied shrine known as Yousufain Dargah in Hyderabad, where her family have been members for generations. It was this early memory that she pursued on her journeys to shrines in rural Sindh and Punjab, Pakistan from 2013 to 2017, where many of the most celebrated spiritual musicians and saints of the subcontinent lived, composed, sang, and remain consecrated.

During this session, Haq plays recordings that she and others have made of performances at shrines in this region and the greater SWANA geography, through which many of the saints travelled in itinerancy, as well as music by modern composers reinterpreting the genre. She also shares passages from Hazrat Inayat Khan’s The Mysticism of Sound and Music (1923) and from Amit Chaudhuri’s Finding The Raga (2021), and speaks about her own experiences of listening at shrines and in clubs, as well as the complexities of documenting those untranslatable experiences. Haq proposes that sama’ be understood metaphorically as a liminal sonic space that encourages transcendence, and that might manifest in (or between) formalised rituals and more inclusive, fluid spaces.

/  The event is in collaboration with Casa Ojalá کاسا اوخالا.

//  The lecture is presented in English by Arshia Fatima Haq, with Spanish interpretation by Fabiola Talavera.