My father immigrated to the US with an F-1 visa and a Pakistani passport dated 1969. Only two years after he arrived to the US, his nation of origin changed as Bangladesh gained independence. In 1972, he traded in one passport for another without having even entered the nation of Bangladesh. Within 15 years, he would trade that passport in too, for an American one.
This painting shows an aerogram airplane cutting through the Los Angeles fog, patterned with the henna and with the colors of Maghrib time. The plane is a cut out of aerogram letters that my Nani (grandmother) would send to my Ammu (mother), and found in my mother’s closet after my mother’s death. The teardrops are Bangla words from my Nani’s letters. The paisleys are the pages of my father’s Pakistani and Bangladeshi passports. The smoke coming out of the plane is a Tagore poem on revolution. The stenciled birds are an image found on the stamps of Bangladeshi aerogram letters in the 1970s. I wanted this painting to reflect the complexity of distance and longing that comes with immigration, lack of a nation-state identity and diaspora. I also wanted the painting to reflect the incredible loss I felt after the loss of my mother in June 2, 2011 and how I imagined her life of never feeling at home or citizen-ed.
TANZILA "TAZ" AHMED is an activist, storyteller, and politico based in Los Angeles. Her writing developed around creating a counternarrative for the communities that she belonged to, whether youth, Muslim, South Asian or counterculture. She speaks on the #GoodMuslimBadMuslim podcast and writes the Radical Love column at loveinshallah.com. She was a long-time writer for Sepia Mutiny and is published in the anthology Love, Inshallah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women. Her projects include writing about Desi music at Mishthi Music where she co-produced Beats for Bangladesh, making #MuslimVDay Cards and curating images for Mutinous Mind State. A mixed media artist, Taz’s artwork was recently featured in the group show Rebel Legacy: Activist Art from South Asian California. In 2012, she had her first gallery show called Maghrib Memories of mixed media art around themes of South Asian diaspora, family, and grief. You can find her on twitter @tazzystar and at tazzystar.blogspot.com.