Contemporary Zoroastrians are a highly dispersed diasporic micro-community, originally descending from Persia and now consisting of a global population of around 150,000. Among the Indian and Middle Eastern communities in Auckland’s Eastern suburbs of Pakuranga and Howick is a closely knit community of Parsis, a subsect of Zoroastrian immigrants; approximately 1,200 of the 2,000 Parsis in Aotearoa live within this 20-kilometre radius, creating a uniquely concentrated, though almost invisible, cultural borough of the oldest iteration of monotheistic worship.
Areez Katki’s Fruit Cubab proposes an exploration of Parsi identity through layers of visibility and invisibility – themes that have long been at the crux of the wider migrant experience. Executed through an investigation of archival material sourced from familial affects, this state of hybridity applies especially to diasporic individuals who have sought forms of assimilation in order to survive.
Katki’s reframing of material culture from the migrant experience looks at how languages and plurality operate within him, accompanied by questions about cultural signifiers, codes and rituals. Where does this cultural material go when it is stored within the migrant body and kitchen? How does it contort and develop an identity of its own? How has this identity survived, without stable land, long since the exodus of Persian Zoroastrians in the 8th century?
Katki’s Billboards stage a public invitation to peer into a richly historied threshold, treading broader thematic motifs that more than allude to the queer meanderings from a migratory imagination. Katki’s own experience as a first-generation New Zealander are tethered to his Persian and queer identities – fortified by relationships bound with recipes, memory and maternal care. Fruit Cubab embraces the importance of history-making by suggesting a hybrid creature: one who has to adapt by finding ways to de-language and re-language signifiers of postcolonial identity.
→ RNZ Saturday Morning – Areez Katki: Breathing new life into the art of embroidery
→ ArtNow – Thinking Out Loud with Areez Katki: On the development of recent exhibitions in Aotearoa and Sri Lanka
About Areez Katki
Areez Katki is an artist and writer based between Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington, Aotearoa and Mumbai, India. His practice surveys the phenomenology of postcolonial identities, which thread through layers of archaeology, spiritual cosmologies and their queer meanderings. Katki intuitively employs found materials, from textiles to language, embalming them with gestures that illuminate notions of hybridity from the migratory condition. Katki’s work has been published and exhibited across Aotearoa, South Asia, Europe and North America. It is held in various private and public collections internationally. Recent projects include 'Language is Migrant' at the 7th edition of Colomboscope, (Sri Lanka) and an upcoming 2022 exhibition with Khadim Ali at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery (Ngāmotu New Plymouth, Aotearoa New Zealand).