About this Event
Davidson Library, UCEN Rd, Isla Vista, CA 93106https://www.library.ucsb.edu/events-exhibitions/greater-common-good #exhibition
UCSB Library is pleased to present The Greater Common Good, a new work by Sa’dia Rehman in charcoal, graphite, ink, carbon paper, silver leaf, and black thread.
In her art practice, Sa’dia Rehman pulls apart and puts together family photographs, historical records, and mass media. She draws on Islamic art and architecture, and the contemporary art of Asian and African diasporas, to situate her individual history within larger historical processes.
For this work, Rehman explores her family’s history of displacement. The 1960s construction of the Tarbela Dam on the Indus River obstructed the flow of water and lifeways in Pakistan. Financed by the World Bank and completed in 1976, the dam put 135 villages below water and displaced 100,000 people, including Rehman’s grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. To this day, when the water recedes in the winter, brick homes and mosques become visible.
In Santa Barbara, the Mission Dam was built at the behest of Franciscan missionaries in 1806–07 by enslaved Chumash laborers with sandstone, lime, and charcoal extracted locally. The missions were central to the colonization of California, and facilitated the genocide of Indigenous peoples and the expropriation of their lands. The remains of the dam and water infrastructure are preserved in the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and Mission Historical Park.
The Greater Common Good traces connections between these remains across generations and geographies. Composed of small works on paper that can be read individually and together, Rehman invites viewers into a conversation. Layers of ink are stretched, paper is cut, and carbon is crinkled with silver leaf—evoking bodies of land and water, familial and religious figures, desire lines, and architectural forms. The title references an essay by Arundhati Roy, which opposes dam-building projects that uproot and exploit Indigenous and Dalit communities.
For more information about this piece, commissioned by the UCSB English Department’s American Cultures & Global Contexts Center (ACGCC), please see https://acgcc.english.ucsb.edu/.