Acclaimed visual artist Naiza Khan to bring her latest documentary to Societies and Cultures Institute event at the University

A world-renowned visual artist is to visit the University of Exeter this month and provide a rare insight into her work and practice.

Naiza Khan, the first-ever British Pakistani artist to represent Pakistan at the Venice Biennale, will screen her recent documentary film, Mapping Water, and discuss its making in front of a live public audience.

Famed for the way she blends drawing, archival material and film, and reflects themes such as colonial history, collective memory and geography, Naiza will go on to field questions about the film and her research and art more broadly.

The event has been orchestrated by the University’s Societies and Cultures Institute (SCI) in partnership with Arts & Culture and will be held on Tuesday 28 May.

“We are delighted to welcome Naiza to the University for what promises to be a fascinating insight into both her latest work and the inspirations behind it,” says Professor James Clark, Director of the SCI.

“During her years at the forefront of the international contemporary art scene, her work has raised important questions around the relationship of identity and place, and the interweaving of the personal and the political.

“Naiza’s work also speaks so clearly to the SCI because it aligns with two of our priority areas of research enquiry, namely, ‘The social and cultural demands of the natural environment’ and ‘Equalities and justice practice with a focus on the Global South’.”

Naiza’s 20-minute documentary Mapping Water critically examines the connection between the ocean, memory and imperialism. In the film, we see the artist developing maps of cities she is recounting, in a manner very different to traditional methods of cartography. In so doing, she creates a critical dialogue, centring questions of how geographies are made in and through experience.

The documentary was first released in 2023, debuting at the Sharjah Biennial 15. Four years earlier, Naiza made history by becoming the first artist to represent Pakistan in the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, with her solo project, Manora Field Notes.

Naiza has exhibited around the world and is a graduate of both the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford, and the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths College, London.

Speaking ahead of the event, Naiza said: “I look forward to sharing my recent film, Mapping Water at the Societies and Cultures Institute. The film locates ideas of memory and mapping between different geographical sites such as London, Sharjah and Karachi.

“I am also keen to share my visual practice with students and faculty, to explore alternative ideas and methods of research between the Arts, Social Sciences and the Humanities. As an artist, I see my visual practice as a conceptual process, creating a generative space for multiple voices to engage and open up a critical dialogue between disciplines.”

Among her previous collaborations with fellow artists and academia, Naiza has worked with Professor Amina Yaqin, Deputy Director of the SCI, on her ‘Walking in Common’ project.

“Her artistic practice draws on disrupted geographies and new civic possibilities which speaks to ongoing work at Exeter on the ecological crisis and an inclusive society,” says Professor Yaqin. “And during her visit she is keen to explore the rich heritage collections at Exeter, especially at the RAMM and the Cathedral.”

Mapping Water: Between paper, memory and the archive will take place between 5.30pm-7.30pm on 28 May, in the Queen’s Building on the Streatham campus. It will begin with a screening of the film in Lecture Theatre 2 and will be followed by a discussion and audience Q&A. There will then be refreshments in the café.

The event is free to members of the public but tickets must be registered through Eventbrite.