Posts in Common Ground
On reflection: a blur, thank you's
Rawalpindi Nights, featuring  Joe Fear  's work

Rawalpindi Nights, featuring Joe Fear 's work

But... before we get into it, here's a word from our sponsors. 

I wish. 

On the real, before we get into how the actual day went I want to say that I was incredibly stressed before hand and I didn't deal well with it. Ask any family member. So although I am incredibly honoured to have had this opportunity, I am not a beaming example of how you should deal with stress. 

After the panic attack/hallucination/freak out I book into see my GP. I'm scared it's something to do with the viral infection I had a few months ago. The GP is shadier than a Pakistani mum. After pouring my heart out about the panic attack/hallucination/freak out Dr [redacated] looks unimpressed:

I'll book you in for a blood test but I need you to know I think you're paranoid and have got yourself in this state

Dr Mean Doctor then ushers me out of his office door.

I return home, wondering what the hell is wrong with me. 

After a relaxing face mask and 2L of water I feel unstoppable! Nope. In reality: I feel pretty shit and pretty anxious for the next few days. 

DAY 1  and Day 2: Condensed

My wonderful brother, his equally wonderful girlfriend and my lil niece are the hype crew of my dreams. We listen to Drake on the way to the Barbican. For a minute, I forget it all. 

The rest is truly a blur. I wasn't exaggerating. Perhaps in the audio version of the reflection (I'm milking this exhibition ting init) I will go into more detail. All I know is I am surrounded by love throughout.

When no one turns up for hours, my brothers are there to comfort me. When I feel alone, the group is there. On the second day, my two sisters are there throughout.

Hind and San, I love you more than I can put into words!!! Jeremiah and Kantuta, my favourite people thank you for coming and supporting the ting. Flowa boy, thank u for taking the time to pop by when you didn't have to. Omar, Zain and Shan, thank you for speaking to me in my irritable mood and helping from start to finish. Tara Khala and Sophia, for your endless love and the fabric you gifted me. It just wouldn't be possible without your generous efforts. Dad, thank you for helping me brainstorm and calm down. Ma, for the interest you take even though you don't get this crazy thing I'm doing with my life. Thank you for trusting me. 

And to Joe. Thank you for allowing Dear Anna to be part of Rawalpindi Nights. And to Joe's family and friends, thank you for the warmth. I feel honoured to have shared the weekend within your presence. I will never forget your kindness. 

 Even if it takes me a life time, I will find a way to give back all the love and support I felt that weekend. I love you all. 

The sun goes down. Corona in one hand, my hand made cushions in another, we walk to the car. I take a few pictures on my disposable. Photos that will lack the tears that have accompanied the process, though will always serve as a reminder of what we are capable of as a community. When we extend our hand, raise each other up and radiate love.

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On reflection: The whirlwind
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The Group

What I haven't touched upon is the very special people that made up the Barbican Visual Art Group of 2018. For this is a group exhibition. It's in April that we get some sort of idea of where each artist is going. 

In one development session with artist John Walter, he recognises that my idea of a communal space would work well with a fellow artist's work. Joe Fear is creating a graphic novel, featuring the work of they're late friend Anna. We are both in agreement, and I am honoured at the thought.

The group is made up of a mix of visual artists. Performance pieces, videos, paintings, films, installations are some mediums that are explored. SUPER TALENTED PEOPLE, many of whom can be found through the #barbicanCG on Insta. 

May 2018: Final Days

Much of May is spent at my part time retail job, whilst juggling everything Common Ground. Oh I didn't mention. We collectively decided to name the exhibition COMMON GROUND. It took a while, and lots of disagreement, but we did it! 

At this point we've also figured out our individual budget, and the curatorial team is creating a catalogue so we have a take away from the exhibition. 

Lots of materials are bought to create the atmosphere including

*cue game show music*

a jasmine home spray

 a retro bluetooth speaker

 a tea set

 a scrapbook/photo album

Audience: oooooh

and on the afternoon before the exhibition I pop to the local indian grocers for some lipton tea bags and green tea leaves. All the bases are covered. 


3 days before the exhibition. I've got it all sorted, mainly. My cushions are mostly finished but I'm worrying. They're looking so shit. So incredibly shit. Threads hang, showcasing the amateur sewing skills. These hands belong to an imposter artist. *faints*

Kidding, I didn't faint. It was worse. 

I'm in bed, ignoring the thoughts. A coping mechanism I have adopted since 2005. When all of a sudden, I start hallucinating. I have searched for a word that can describe what happened, and hallucination is the closest. My head starts spinning and the more I look at my phone, the worse it gets. My fingers feel like they are expanding. Like someone is blowing air, and they will burst at any moment. My tongue is expanding, throbbing in my mouth. 

I get up, finally. Go to my mirror with my sausage fingers, tears streaming down my face and notice that nothing has changed. My fingers are the usual size. I stick my tongue out. It looks like it always has, pink and moist. 

I get flashbacks. This has happened before. I've only had a panic attack twice in my life before this. 

I run to my dad's room where he comforts me.

Dad: You're stressing

Aroob: I'm not

Dad: You're in denial. This is a family thing, we don't know how to deal with stress

And then it dawns upon me. In this whirlwind I haven't processed any of it. I've just bopped along pretending it's all fiiiine. It's all gooood. It's not all fine and it's not all good.

On reflection: Developing the ting


What is this communal space I'm so excited for, that it has been emphasised with the use of italics AND bold?! 

In Rawalpindi, our house was a huge warehouse-type building. Where do you think the hipsters got it from? Steel panels covered the roof, flooding in an abundance of light when needed. This is what makes suburbia different. Doors are always locked here, living rooms much smaller in size, and designed only for your immediate family to feel comfortable in.  In Rawalpindi, we ate on the floor. Carpeted floor, with a blanket layer on top. Bolster and square cushions set on the side. For me, this is the thing that allowed neighbours to stay for hours at ours. Well that, and the promise of the latest gossip. 

I noticed, when I would visit our wealthier cousin's house in Rawalpindi, the same lack of community. Never did a neighbour come around just to say salam, and drink a cup of green tea. In my many visits of their gated house, not once did a kid from the neighbourhood pop in for some jubilee chocolate. 

And what was the difference? THE COMMUNAL LIVING SPACE. The inviting living room that lacks a pretentious nature. The common ground. Oh my god did she just...reference the name of the exhibition so casually?! Yes, yes I did.

Late April 2018: I actually have an idea! 

In some ways, the hard part is kind of over. Now that I know my aim, and the way I want to go about it,  everything else is directing all my energy to accomplish it. LET'S GO!

[the energy for the rest of the month is scattered]

[usually one day out of the week is filled with inspiration and love and all the good things that keep me going]

[many are filled with moments of self doubt imposter syndrome and anxiety]

Time is ticking. Mum offers to lend a hand. 

Mum: Why don't you text your Khala (Aunty) she said she'd be happy to give you fabric.

I go to my Khala's, where I pick up her old shalwar kameez's and extra stuff for decorating. What would I do without family?! 


I'm going to make a seating area. 

With cushions all sewed by hand. Now would be a good time to mention I have never used a sewing machine in my life. 

Bolster cushions, square cushions. 

And a family album, cos I love an injection of some good ol' nostalgia. 

And a tea ceremony, cos why not! 

On reflection: The process
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What a blur. The only way this weekend can be summed up without me tearing up. A fucking blur. 

I've now come to understand the real vulnerability it takes to exhibit your work in the real world. The Internet can be a buffer of sorts, where you and your posi-gang of mutuals reside in a bubble. A safety bubble filled with unconditional love and admiration. But out there in the real world you're open to it all. Exposed to every element. And this is the thought that leads to my panic attack, 3 days before the exhibition is to open for the public. 

Let's go back in time, 8 months back to be precise. I get the email I've been waiting for. 

September 2017: Welcome

thank you for coming to the selection workshop for the barbican's young visual art group. we are happy to announce you've been chosen as part of the group this year, well done! 

I will be exhibiting work at THE flipping BARBICAN. Crazy. I don't stop smiling for a week. 

The first session comes around. I walk into a room full of eccentric characters; they all look like they should be in a vice or i-D column about the visual underground scene in london. I'm home! 

November 2017: Community

A few months pass, when we are given our first assignment. Responding to the word


My natural response: to write. A poem of sorts, called Rawalpindi Nights. About migrating from my town in Pakistan, to a suburb in London and feeling alienated, even after 13 odd years.  

March 2018: Brainstorming

I think back to Rawalpindi and all those years I spent there. The sense of community there and the lack of community I have experienced in suburbia can't just be down to "cultural differences." First of all, that's vague. Second, things aren't so black and white. What I don't want is a criticism of my experiences in suburbia, it is what it is and something I've made my peace with. What would be more fitting is a commentary, of my time spent in Rawalpindi.

I figure out my aim in this month: To embed something that is present in Rawalpindi, into London. 

April 2018: Developing

Festivals. The one thing that brings all the neighbors together in Rawalpindi. But festivals also bring communities together in London. Look at Notting Hill Carnival, concerts and gigs, the world cup. Alright, scratch that. 

There's something else missing. In the everyday. Something we do that lacks here in Suburbia. 

*cue magic light bulb moment*



Ever since I started planning, all I wanted to do was go to Southall to source all the fabric I'd need. I got a call from Mum who mentioned that my Khala (Aunty) had loads of stuff in her loft she wasn't using, and that she'd be happy to give it away. 

So on a Saturday evening in April I went to see a Khala who I hadn't seen in months. As soon as I walked through her door, the home's unmistakable fragrance hit me. A mix of laundry detergent and cooking, homely and welcoming. She embraced me, and I, her. After squeals of 'Its been such a long time' type conversations, we went upstairs to her loft. 

Up the sturdy steel stairs, now surrounded by exposed wood. The loft is busy, bits and bobs condensed to all four corners. Excitedly, we begin. Throwing all sorts of material in the bag. Neglected shalwar kameezs, shawls, bangles, even shoes, are flung into the now heaving bag. Khala goes to add more, to which I reply: 'This is more than enough!' The rest of the evening is spent laughing, catching up, sharing tales of a past life and hopes for what is to come.