Inventing the Nation: Making Histories and New Possibilities
Research Project conducted by Sophia Balagamwala
Sophia Balagamwala, contemporary artist and curator based in Karachi, Pakistan, is working on the research project “Inventing the Nation: Making Histories and New Possibilities” with ASAP and the British Council Seasons, Pakistan. The project explores collections and politics of the museum complex in South Asia, and its impact on nation building and identity formation.
Balagamwala’s project looks at the presence of imperial and national narratives in specific collections and institutions, and the entanglements of colonial legacies in such projects. She is studying the systems of archiving, narrative building, and framing history within museums and archives, and questioning how these framings are able to convey, reinforce, mask or contradict histories and existing bodies of knowledge with a lens on both modern visual art and pre-modern art and objects.
Her project encompasses research at select institutions in Pakistan and the UK with a series of conversations and study sessions and an experimental publication, which will be available online on the ASAP and British Council Seasons perspective websites. The study sessions look at specific collections and case studies, including objects, artworks, labels, archives, exhibition making and publications to analyse and have meaningful discussions focused on the intertwined and complicated histories in these institutions. The publication will serve as a culmination of the project learnings, discoveries and discussions, and will include contributions from relevant academics, writers, artists and practitioners who have engaged with the project.
Sophia Balagamwala is a multidisciplinary artist and curator based in Karachi whose research is grounded in archives, and the act of narrative building within the museum context. She has a BA from the University of Toronto and an MFA from Cornell University. She has previously worked as the Lead Curator of the National History Museum in Lahore and is currently an advisor for the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, and the Lok Virsa Museum in Islamabad. She has also worked on a number of collaborative publication projects and conducted zine making workshops through a platform Balagamwala created called Kurachee, that facilitates animation, illustration and design collaborations. As a part of this project, she has founded a small alternative publishing grant called the Tiny Publication grant, and is curating a reading room at the COMO Museum, Lahore, to encourage research and create dialogue around local artist publications. She teaches at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture.