A Story of Reconciliation

by Hanin Najjar 2 years ago in humanity

The Story of Pakistani-American Portland Artist and the 2016 Election

A Story of Reconciliation

Sabina Haque, like many other parents in Trump’s America, does not know what to say when her eight-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter ask her, “What will happen to us?”

Sabina Haque, the Portland based artist, was born in Columbus, Ohio, to a Christian American woman and a Muslim Pakistani man. She was raised in Karachi, Pakistan and moved back to the United States at age 18. She says both sides of her are in conflict and beautiful union.

Being part of two cultures, Sabina is often conflicted by the politics around her. She says, “When I see drones flying over Pakistan that are made in Hood River, it is really challenging because these weapons are being sent over and used indiscriminately against people that I know.” She often feels divided, saying, “I have the blood of my oppressor in my body.”

Sabina is constantly forced to reconcile the different parts of her because of her surroundings. She finds unity in her inner conflicts through her art tackling topics like identity and conflict. She says, “My whole life has been about reconciling conflicting identities and how to see both perspectives.”

Sabina’s mother was also an artist who started an art school in their home in Karachi, Pakistan. When she was 18 years old, Sabina decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps and study art. She moved to the United States, against her parent's wishes, to attended the all women's Smith College outside of Boston. There she studied Fine Art and Education then went on to graduate school to get a Master's in fine art.

Sabina recalls that the art school, much like Karachi, had a very diverse population and that she never felt different from the other kids. Growing up, her mother told her, “You are the best of both worlds. You don’t have to pick, you can be who you are.”

However, it was when she came to the most diverse country in the world that Sabina did not know how to answer when asked, “What do you mean you’re from Pakistan? You don’t look like it.”

All of the sudden she had to check a box and decide what her label would be.

Sabina’s roots are deeply embedded in the divisions and conflicts between Pakistan and India during the partition in August of 1947. Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims who lived in peace were suddenly at each other's throats. Her own father barely survived the partition.

When he was ten years old, his family crossed the border into Pakistan. Sabina’s grandfather, a doctor, left before his family and crossed into Pakistan by train but soon after he did the trains became a site of massacres. The trains would pull into stations filled with the corpses of refugees. He warned his family not to cross by train and instead they crossed by land and sea. The boat that carried Sabina’s 10-year-old father broke down and they lost all of their belongings. Sabina says, “Finally they made it to Karachi but everything was destroyed.”

Because of his experience, seeing first hand what division can do to groups of people, Sabina’s father led his life with an open mind. He married a Christian American woman and raised Sabina and her siblings to be open-minded towards people who are different. Coming from that background Sabina is able to reconcile all of the different parts of her life through her artwork.

Art served as a guide to her identity. It was at an art gallery that Sabina met an Indian man who would soon be her husband and whom she would share a son and daughter within their home in Portland.

With the recent attempts at a Muslim ban Sabina’s children often ask her, “What will happen to us? Will we be shipped out? We are not like White people.”

Although she, like many other parents, does not know how to answer, she takes the lessons that she has learned from her own parents to teach her children to be open minded with other people and embrace the different parts of themselves.

Hanin Najjar
Hanin Najjar
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Hanin Najjar

Arab American

Journalist, Filmmaker, Activist

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