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Diasporic narratives

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

Areez Katki is a multidisciplinary artist & textile practitioner from Auckland. Here he talks about heritage, herstories, and the joy of a good cigarette.

What materials are integral in your work?

The obvious ones would be textile surfaces with needle and thread, right? These really wouldn’t achieve much if it weren’t for the correct placement within an ideal setting and time. The capacity to conduct and gather research close to where one might formulate ideas, record thoughts, emotional responses and begin executing all of the above in a safe, productively equipped space. So time and place, then, have been the two most integral materials for my practice.

What themes do you pursue?

I’m not sure if the themes I pursue are cohesive enough for such a tidy summarization. However, I do pride myself in having (so far) only been presented in exhibitions organized or curated by women. So there’s one recurring theme, I guess?

What research do you do?

Working with textiles as my primary medium, I usually think about what stage of their story I’d like to illuminate. For my solo show this year, it began once I was around a certain setting (alone at my ancestral home located in a Parsi Colony in Mumbai, India) and then went wider – all the way past the borders of modern-day Iran. So in a sense the research began with an intimate, domestic sensibility that was almost autobiographical. It then grew, in order to expand on the provenance of certain textiles; their herstories, rare fabrication techniques and of course, several cross-cultural diasporic narratives. Most of this research was pleasurably done whilst decoding the information and memory that cloth masterfully retains over time.

Do you collect anything?

Hand-worked textile specimens from my travels. More recently (for the past year and a bit) I’ve been gathering research fragments of mid-18th to early-20th century textiles that have been mostly hand-woven and embroidered by Zoroastrian women around India, Iran, and Azerbaijan. These now range from nomadic flat-woven Kilims, 300-year-old fragments of Termeh (laboriously jacquard-loomed & embroidered silk bridal mantles) to humble handkerchiefs from the closets of deceased relatives.

How does your work comment on current social or political issues?

By exploring and intimately rejoicing with craft techniques that have been overlooked or marginalized within the contemporary art context. One does chuckle at the irony that somehow these materials, when looked at in their naked form, still manage to be the very vehicle upon which (painting, deemed ‘high art’) is often presented. My comments toward the status quo of said social hierarchies are by posing questions about gendered spaces, mastering craft skills and matrilineal sensibilities that have been inherited over several decades. These ideals continue to punctuate my practice and manifest through (predominantly) non-linguistic means of expression, also by engaging with modes of domesticity that look inward.

In five words, describe the colour yellow to somebody who is blind.

Warm, intelligent, acidic, round, malleable.

What’s something your brain tries to make you do and you have to will yourself not to do it?

To question most things I’ve said or written within less than a minute, after I’ve said or written them.

What were you like at 15?

Shy but very openly queer, just took up smoking and loved every minute of it.


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