Visual Artist Sabba Elahi

Sabba Syal Elahi is an interdisciplinary artist, educator, and cultural worker and focuses her art practice in fibers and drawing/painting. Her art explores collective memory, loss, political history, and its impact on the shifting shape of personal and communal identities. Sabba has been active with Chicago’s South Asian artist community, curating and coproducing, Voices of Resistance, an annual exhibition and performance evening (2009-2011). Most recently Sabba exhibited her work online with the International Museum of Women (2013), and participated in the Bolt Residency Program with the Chicago Artist Coalition (2013-2014) and a teaching artist residency at Ragdale (2012). Sabba has over twelve years experience in education non profits; since 2009 she has worked with Chicago youth at Marwen, providing college and career counseling, portfolio development, and art instruction. Sabba received her M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

My art is largely impacted by the socio-political issues around Islam, the state of Pakistan, and my proximity and distance as a South Asian American. My inspiration is drawn from textiles, family photographs, media imagery, activism, and feminist theory. I create art objects in the in-between spaces, somewhere between 2D and 3D, art and artifact, handcrafted and technology.

1 Elahi Postcard Everyday Suspects Resized My current work reflects on our surveillance state and the use of drones domestically as vehicles of surveillance and globally as agents of warfare. My hand embroidered and drawn imagery moves the viewer through aerial and peripheral views of domestic and civil spaces, the benign and the personal. I employ the decorative craft of embroidery to speak to the subversive nature of these issues in our everyday. Through this body of work, I draw a parallel to what is happening in many Muslim American communities, watched where they live, work, and pray.

Growing up in the Midwest, Pakistan was not even on the map for the majority of my peers and teachers. Now when mainstream America thinks about Pakistan, the war on terror, suicide bombings, and fundamentalist Islam often are associated. My own adult life and artistic career has also been colored by the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the ongoing civil conflicts in Pakistan. I can’t be a citizen of this world and ignore neither these conflicts nor the localized effects of Islamaphobia, stereotyping, and racism of Muslim, South Asian, and Arab communities. I respond to these issues by making art, images rooted in personal stories, community, and family dialogues.

WEBSITE http://elahiarts.org or http://elahiarts.net