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Local Artist Calls On Public For Information About Missing Installation in McDonald Park

Published on Monday, October 18, 2021 | 5:30 am

Pakistan-born artist, writer and community activist Sehba Sarwar is asking the public if anyone witnessed the removal of her missing art installation at McDonald Park that vanished during ArtNight Pasadena on Oct. 3.

Taken with the installation were about 40 sheets of “ajrak” fabric that her 82-year-old mother had shipped here from Karachi, cards that many Pasadena residents had written messages and personal notes on, and 13 metal stakes that had been dug deep in the ground by volunteers.

The work was one of three art installations that Sarwar and several local volunteers had been working on for days since early this month. The whole process, including collecting messages on cards from people throughout the city, had taken her more than six months. The installations consisted of the ajrak fabric that she wrapped around tree trunks and branches at Victory Park, Memorial Park and McDonald Park, with the message cards either pinned to the cloth or hanging from it.

The messages, some of which came from high school students, tell of how people in Pasadena had coped with the current pandemic. They were all part of the installations that Sarwar called “On Belonging.”

“It was supposed to have been completed by June 2020, but I just finished the project late this month,” said Sarwar, who’s currently based in Pasadena. “The goal of the project is to create a space for community voices to respond to the question of being home during the pandemic, what that was like, how they responded, how people dealt with it. And it’s a multilayer project. So because the fabric that I use to decorate the trees is from my home country in Karachi, Pakistan. And it’s a design that is claimed by that particular region.”

On Oct. 3, Sarwar and some volunteers first found the installation at Memorial Park in disarray. The cloth had been removed from the truck and branches of a large avocado tree were left on the ground, along with the message cards. Sarwar retrieved what was left and drove on to McDonald Park, where she discovered there was nothing left of the installation expect the descriptive sign.

“When I turned the corner from Mountain Street onto Mar Vista Avenue, I couldn’t see the red and the fabric. You cannot see it, and even the white cards that usually stand out against it. I mean, there was nothing. I was like, ‘Am I on the right street on the block?’ And I’m like, ‘Where?’ It was just so surreal. And I pulled up and it was gone, vanished. Everything. The cards, the fabric, the tent stakes… I mean, we had hammered these tent stakes into the ground. And the only thing left was my sign explaining what the project was, but there wasn’t a project anymore,” Sarwar said.

The sign said Sarwar was dedicating “On Belonging” to global communities and refugees who resist walls, borders and checkpoints.

Sehba Sarwar. (Courtesy photo)

She reported the theft to the police that day, but no one has since come forward to provide any information about where the ajrak fabric, the cards and the tent stakes could have gone.

Sarwar said the art work may have been taken down past 7 a.m. Oct. 3. She pleaded with anyone who might have seen the act, or the missing pieces of the work, to contact her or the police.

“If anybody saw people, anybody, if somebody saw people de-installing the project on Sunday, Oct. 3rd, between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., please let us know,” she said.

She may be reached by email at

In the meantime, the public can visit Victory Park, at 2575 Paloma St., to see the remaining “On Belonging” art installation.

“I had expected to have five trees in three parks. And at this point I had three trees in one park. I’m happy for that, at least,” Sarwar said. “So if people want to go check it out, they can. It’s temporary, it’s going to be gone after the 23rd, by the night of the 23rd. So I do hope people can stop by.”

To learn more about “On Belonging” and Sarwar’s other works, visit

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