Oklahoma Contemporary

HOME1947: Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy

Seven tapestries with views of people getting onto trains and cars, leaving their homes and packing suitcases in orange and red tones hang staggered in an art gallery

New Light

Feb. 22, 2024

HOME1947: Loss and Recreation

An ode to a generation

If you were forced to leave your home, where would you go? What would you take? What would you leave? Who would you become? How would you rebuild? HOME1947: Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy explores concepts of displacement, lives left, conversations unfinished and the search for home.

An art gallery shows a suitcase hanging from the ceiling in the middle of a room with a map of India to the left, and orange boards with white writing to the right

HOME1947: Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy

“Amidst the prevailing connotations of terms like 'refugee' and 'migrant,' entwined with the ongoing global refugee crisis, HOME1947 serves as a poignant lens into the experience of displacement, seen through the eyes of those who lived it,” Pakistani Canadian filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy says. “Its illumination of events from 76 years ago not only underscores their enduring reverberations in the present but also casts a haunting shadow over the countless lives still impacted by its legacy.”

The exhibition, on view in the Eleanor Kirkpatrick Main Gallery Feb. 22-July 22, 2024, illustrates the lives and stories of the millions displaced during the August 1947 Partition that created the two independent nation-states of India and Pakistan. This separation resulted in the largest mass migration recorded in history. Through short documentary and film narratives, photographs, virtual reality, archival materials and immersive installations, HOME1947 aims to craft spaces that capture visual memories of this shared human experience.

A woman with long dark hair with gray streaks wears a white shirt with red lipstick on smiles softly at the camera against a white wall

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy

HOME1947 is an ode to my grandparents’ generation whose stories I grew up listening to,” Obaid Chinoy says. “As [visitors] walk through the installation, [they can] imagine the journeys people made, the conversations that were interrupted, the broken friendships and promises, the playgrounds children left behind, the empty corridors of their homes and those suitcases of memories locked away forever. HOME1947 is a deeply personal reflection of the events of 1947.”

Scents of jasmine waft through the galleries while sounds of bustling streets, children playing and tales from elders whisper and buzz between recreated passageways and corridors. Illuminated tapestries of journeys traveled welcome visitors in, and a large map on the floor invites navigations of belonging, while suitcases packed with objects held dear for their personal and cultural significance evoke visions of both sacred and mundane moments.

An open suitcase shows a tube of cigarettes from the 40s, glass bottles and other trinkets

Obaid Chinoy originally produced HOME1947 as a commission for a showcase at the prestigious Manchester International Festival in 2017, marking the 70th anniversary of Partition. It subsequently toured to Mumbai, Lahore and Karachi in 2018. In 2007, the filmmaker co-founded The Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP) to initiate the compilation of oral histories and historical research, archiving nearly 300 years of life on the subcontinent. Components from CAP are included in the North American debut of the exhibition.

“Through its Oral History Project, CAP has recorded personal testimonies of the generation that underwent the largest mass-migration in recorded history,” General Manager of CAP Noor Ahmed says. “In addition to disseminating from the archive, as we have done for this exhibition, CAP strives to be a resource center for students, researchers, artists and interested actors who wish to explore Partition, migration and history through nuanced parallel perspectives.”

Obaid Chinoy has created a similar framework for the exhibition, one that amplifies the shared human experience rather than justifications for polarization. Within this framework, Oklahoma Contemporary Senior Director of Curatorial Affairs Carina Evangelista notes that the exhibition serves as a means for visitors "to measure the accumulating weight of the past in considering the conflicts in the present moment." These themes are ever present for Oklahomans.

An art gallery with a large interactive map on the ground, and black-and-white rectangular photos lining the wall

“While HOME1947 clearly has historical specificity that would resonate with the diasporic South Asian community in the region, the feelings that it evokes also strike a universal chord,” Evangelista states. Especially “in a place steeped in stories of displacement that dovetail with what it takes to create a new home: From Oklahoma being a final destination of the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma City opening itself to refugees during and after the Vietnam War, and its present efforts toward the settlement of new Afghan neighbors.”

In a time of global crises and catastrophes, the exhibition serves as a larger platform for visitors to engage, process and learn narratives otherwise untold and underrepresented.

HOME1947: Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy opens tonight, Feb. 22, with an opening reception, beginning at 5:30 p.m. with light bites and a cash bar, followed by a sold-out conversation with Ahmed and Sameer Kahn, HOME1947 producer, moderated by Dr. Nyla Ali Khan, Kashmiri professor, author and women’s rights advocate.

Suitcase handles in a variety of sizes and shapes and colors hang on a gray wall to the right. To the left, a wooden table sits under white text on the wall above, and on the floor next to stacked suitcases.

HOME1947's A Space for Reflection

"Life is a very interesting juxtaposition of grieving, mourning, loss, dislocation, uprooting, and creation, life, recreation, rebirth,” Dr. Nyla Ali Khan said during an interview. “That is what this exhibition is about."

Be among the first to experience this powerful and important exhibition, a humanization of this historical chapter. Reserve your free tickets here.


Installation view of HOME1947: Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy.

Installation view of HOME1947: Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy.

Artist Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. Photo by Bina Khan.

Detail view of HOME1947: Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy.

Installation view of HOME1947: Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy.

Installation view of HOME1947's A Space for Reflection, an interactive learning space.

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