“How do we remember people..” – Five Q & As with Fazal Rizvi
Header image: Planting mint, courtesy Fazal Rizvi
Karachi-based artist Fazal Rizvi is currently undertaking a Home-Not-Alone Residency with Pro Helvetia New Delhi. An interdisciplinary artist, Fazal’s inquiry rests somewhere between the personal, the social and the political. Having spent a few years thinking about the sea and its borders, histories and materiality, he also keeps returning to the personal and the familial as a place of trigger. In this interview, we talk to Fazal about his sherbet-making project, and how it relates to the memory of his aunt.
1. Tell us about your project during this home-not-alone residency.
image: courtesy Fazal Rizvi
The Sherbet Project is a project that revolves around my aunt, my mother’s oldest sister. She used to make a sherbet, a sweet drink syrup with mint and vinegar, and it is the most amazing of drinks I can remember. Sadly she did not pass the recipe to anyone.
As part of the project I want to attempt to replicate that recipe from what my memory remembers of it. And see where else the process of making, uncovering and unravelling the recipe may take me.
2. What is the inspiration behind this project?
I am formulating this project from an emotional place. I would simply say that this project intends to unravel and reflect on very human feelings and on a life once lived. My aunt being the centre of it.
She lived a somewhat unfulfilled life. She was the eldest of four daughters and their father died when she was a teenager. Had to migrate from East Pakistan to West Pakistan during the 1970/71 war, when riots had broken out and start a new life. Being the eldest of four daughters, she became responsible for a great deal at home early on. Eventually got married, and had kids but continued to live a life where her own desires were not quite fulfilled. Something as simple as having a home/house of her own being one of them. Despite all of this I remember her as the most generous and most loving of the people around me. For me a great part of diving into this project is to be a homage of sorts to my aunt.
3. How do you intend to go about this exploration?
A great deal of the project would revolve around notions of memory and nostalgia. How do we remember people, with what instances and moments, and what roles do our senses of smell and taste play in all of this.
Simultaneously I would also want to think about notions of desire and longing through this. I will imagine, research and speculate what her life as a woman may have been like. To think what it means and meant to be a woman in her life and position and time. Virginia Woolf in her essay ‘A Room of Ones Own’, is troubled by the fact that there is no real narrative present of women in literature in Europe, produced before the 18th century. Therefore, at anytime and any place it becomes important and a resistance in itself to write, and document and archive narratives and stories that will only be considered ordinary and get erased with time. This would definitely be another motivation.
4. How do the above ideas tie up with the sherbet-making?
All these explorations I intend to pivot around the making of the Sherbet she used to make by cooking sugar, vinegar and mint down into a thick glistening dark amber colour. I have very distinct memories of the taste and smell of it. And it is interesting to think so as to how much of our memories are based and embedded and archived within such precise sensorial instances. So I intend to turn the studio into a lab, where the recipe of the sherbet would be replicated while experimenting with techniques and proportions. And simultaneously it would be a place where all sorts of other personal, archival, historical material would also be played around with to think through her life.
5. How is it to be on a home-not-alone residency? How does it compare to a ‘normal’ residency?
This still just feels like the beginning to say too much, however I have been fortunate enough to find a lovely studio space where I can think and work. And this is allowing me to still step out of my house everyday and go to the studio and work. So it becomes this time where I have to focus on a specific project and research, which is the kind of space residencies do provide, and thankfully I have been able to create that while in my home city.
Read more on Fazal Rizvi and the home-not-alone residency here.
Follow Fazal Rizvi on Instagram, and the hashtag #homenotaloneresidency to stay updated on the residency program taking place with participants from Switzerland, Congo, Egypt, Morocco, and Pakistan. Read more about the participants and residency here.