Zahra Malkani is a multidisciplinary artist based in Karachi, Pakistan. Her research-based art practice spans multiple media including text, sound and web, and explores the politics of development, infrastructure and militarism in Pakistan. She is a co-founder with Shahana Rajani of Karachi LaJamia, an experimental pedagogical project exploring new radical pedagogies in connection with ongoing struggles in Karachi. Zahra is currently a fellow at the Akademie Schloss Solitude and has exhibited and presented work across Pakistan and internationally in spaces such as the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, Ishara Art Foundation in Dubai, and the Uppsala Art Museum, Sweden. She has published collaborative writings on urbanism, militarisation and the university in local and international journals such as Hybrid: The Indus Valley School of Art Research Journal and Perspecta: The Yale Architectural Journal.

All Photos: Zahra Malkani



Samandari Ehsaasat (Ocenaic Feelings) 1- 4, 2021-22.
Four channel audio installation with prints, different durations.

Samandari Ehsaasat (Oceanic Feelings) is an audio research project moving through the aquatic landscapes of coastal Sindh and Balochistan where the sonic and the sacred come together at sea. The sounds encountered here emerge from spaces with long, rich histories of oceanic exchange and connection — spaces now devastated by development, militarism and the Pakistani state’s infrastructural nationalism. The term ‘oceanic feelings’ refers to the affective experience of religious or spiritual rapture: a moment of ego-death, the dissolution of one’s own boundaries into an aquatic, infinite unity. Oceanic metaphors abound in Sufi poetry, evoking the mystic’s desire for union with the divine beloved, for absolute dissolution into the divine whole. Yet, beyond the mystical promise and romance of the oceanic, the Indian Ocean is also haunted by stories, past and present, of great violence and terror. ‘Oceanic feelings’ here refers both to experiences of awe and ecstasy, as well as horror and dis-ease.

From field recordings at protests and occult rituals by the beach, to folklore and anti-colonial epics, the sounds in this series threaten and entice with those same oceanic undoings, ecstatic border-crossings and boundary-breakings. Sacred ruptures that intervene upon, unravel and transgress Pakistan’s shored up sonic hegemonies.

Offered in this space are 4 sonic encounters emerging from this research. The subtitle, All water is a portal to all water, is borrowed from an epistolary exchange between Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Christine Sharpe. These sonic portals, individually and collectively, map out an aqueous, unruly cosmography — a kind of ecopedagogy from the shadows of militarised, occupational infrastructure.