These are emerging drawings for a project called Lita’s House, an imaginary house for the disappeared and imprisoned; a mirror world of fascism and authoritarianism, struggle and resistance.
I’m an architect as well as an activist, so one half of my work involves direct action and campaigning, and that pours into the other half of my work, my art.
My activism focuses on fascism in India, authoritarianism in Bangladesh and the rise of far-right nationalism including our own struggles against racism and social inequality here in the UK.
Lita’s House has emerged from the various cases I follow in both India and Bangladesh, of activists, students, journalists, singers, poets and intellectuals who have been jailed or disappeared. It is also a metaphor; a device for exploring notions of absence and human loss through architecture.
I collaborated with poet Rachel Spence and musical composer Michael Rosas Cobian. Their poems and music are part of the architecture and are provided below along with the drawings.
Lita’s House is also an expression of my theories on the Architecture of Disappearance, which I began writing about during my uncle, photographer Shahidul Alam’s incarceration. It is here that I put forward the notion of using architecture as a language of struggle and resistance, something which other art forms have done, but architecture has largely refrained from.
The Architecture of Disappearance is work that will probably consume me for the rest of my life. But last year I condensed my preliminary thoughts into a set of seven essays on architecture. It is here that I begin to re-examine the architect’s role, as well as ideas of silence, truth, beauty and transcendence – architectural orthodoxies passed down the generations and across continents – through the framework of activism. These drawings also relate to those essays.
Lita, bright comets mapping
with borders sharp
as knives, porous as mirrors.
Lost space, found lives, faith
in dark matters, truth
and violence crossing seas,
travelling light to us
by Rachel Spence
Sofia Karim is an architect, artist and activist based in the UK.
Her work focuses on human rights and artists’ freedom of expression in Bangladesh and India. She campaigned for the release of artists, including her uncle, the Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam, who was jailed after reporting on student protests; as well as that of campaigning Cuban performance artist Tania Bruguera.
She is the founder of Turbine Bagh, a joint artists’ movement against fascism and the rise of far-right nationalism in India and beyond. She has staged protest exhibitions at Tate Modern (Turbine Hall) and her campaigns have been covered in publications such as The Observer, Artnet News, Frieze, Hyperallergic and London Evening Standard.
She has appeared on BBC World News, Channel 4 News, Al Jazeera and Sky News.
She is the founder of books4jail, a project that sends books from artists, writers and cultural institutions to prisoners.
You can find Sofia here: