Voices Breaking Boundaries VBB Arts Sehba Sarwar Houston Texas

Multidisciplinary workshop at Sharpstown High School (2002); photo by Paul Hester

Multidisciplinary artist and writer Sehba Sarwar was raised in Karachi, Pakistan, in a home filled with artists, activists and educators.

In 2000, inspired by her parents, she founded Voices Breaking Boundaries (VBB), an alternative arts organization that tackles social justice issues.

Intentionally resisting the boundaries of just one medium and one region, Sarwar has a three-decade history of writing, blogging, performing, and creating time-based installations.

Examining issues of displacement, borders and women’s rights, her essays, short stories, poems, and blogs have appeared in publications including And The World Changed (Feminist Press, New York), The New York Times’ Sunday Magazine, Callaloo, Vallum Contemporary Poetry, Creative Time Reports, Dawn Books & Authors, Houston Chronicle, and more, while her first novel, Black Wings, was published in 2004 (Alhamra Publishing, Pakistan). Sarwar’s video collages have been screened in Pakistan, India, Egypt and the United States, and she has created a broad spectrum of time-based art installations -- including an award-winning Art Car -- for Voices Breaking Boundaries’ Living Room Art productions.

Words for Peace 4 (2006); photo by Eric Hester

Sarwar’s most recent creation, BORDERLINES, is a flagship VBB program that forges connections between North America and South Asia through the generation of art production and publications featuring literary and visual art.

Voices Breaking Boundaries VBB Arts Sehba Sarwar Houston Texas

What Is Home? (2015); photo by Paul Hester

Alongside generating writing and art, Sarwar has presented readings and talks at campuses around the USA and Pakistan at spaces including Fatima Jinnah Women’s College (Islamabad), Government College (Lahore), Karachi University (Karachi), University of Texas (Austin), Duke University (Durham, NC), El Paso Community College (El Paso), George Washington University (Washington DC), Eastern Mennonite University (Harrisburg, VA), Portland State University (Portland, OR) and more. As a visiting writer and adjunct faculty member at the University of Houston, Writers in the Schools, Inprint Inc., and other groups, Sarwar has led long-term writing and performance art workshops for all ages ranging from kindergarten to college.

Her What Is Home? project was awarded a 2014-15 Mid-America Arts Alliance Artist Innovation grant. A recipient of three Houston Arts Alliance Individual Artist Awards, Sarwar also served as Artist-in-Residence at University of Houston's Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.

An active member of the community, Sarwar served on the board of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast; Friends of Women’s Studies University of Houston; was a scholar-in-residence at Rice University’s Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality (2012-16); and participated in panels with the Ford Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts. From 2002-2008, Sarwar was co-host of a weekly show at Houston’s Pacifica Radio Station KPFT 90.1 FM through which she interviewed Houston-based artists as well as celebrities including Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass and Patti Smith. A lifetime member of Macondo Writers Workshop and a Senior Fellow of the American Leadership Forum, Sarwar uses her trademark talent for deftly translating experiences into thought-provoking, relatable words and images in her blog where she documents the multiple realities she inhabits as writer, artist, mother, activist and transnational.

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