Sha Sarwari’s work responds to both the experience and representation of refugees in Australia. Language is a crucial force here. Words are given presence through sculptures and installations that use postcards and newspaper articles as raw materials. The works transform these often generic and biased texts into objects that reflect his personal journey as a refugee from Afghanistan. Language also emerges in works that use charcoal to render Farsi texts in Nastiliq, a traditional calligraphic script. Sarwari turns the destruction of fire into affirmations of memory and identity. Fire, as both devastation and renewal, symbolises the tension in the refugee experience, the wavering between estrangement and belonging, in finding a place between two worlds. This is a liminal experience, where one is simultaneously on both sides of a threshold, though here this transitional state is ongoing, rather than temporary. The title pairs “liminal” with the Farsi term, “برزخ”, or Barzakh, which refers to the experience of being in limbo, a place of lingering between death and resurrection. The terms are similar, yet not completely reconcilable. Sarwari’s work entangles the refugee experience in language, holding both pasts and futures, alienation and acceptance, remembrance and forgetting and, ultimately, embracing its potential as a source of hope. 

RAG, Cleveland

SUNDAY 16 JUNE 2024 –

Opening Event:
6pm, Friday 14 June 2024

Artist Conversation:
10am, Sunday 16 June 2024

Full workshop and event progam

Sha Sarwari, Liminal برزخ (Detail), 2023. Photograph by Louis Lim. Courtesy of the Artist. .