Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Nasreen Khan: Cic·a·trix

June 2 @ 8:00 am - July 23 @ 3:00 pm

The narrative of femininity is pain.
Cicatrix: the scar of a healed wound. In botany, cicatrix refers to the keloid mark left on a tree after a piece of it has been removed. In this body of work, I am exploring the personal maternal scar of being taken away from the only real parental figure I had until that point in life, the complex scars of colonialism and immigration, and the physical scars of my own body.
I spent the first part of my life in Senegal, West Africa. I was raised by my nanny, a Senegalese woman named Saly. In Senegal there is a practice called diamou, or gum tattooing and burning. A hot needle is repeatedly poked into a woman’s gums. Then a mixture of burnt oil and shea butter is rubbed into the wounds to darken the space around the teeth. This is supposed to make the woman more beautiful, but also to train her to tolerate pain. When I was 9, Sali began tattooing my gums to blacken them. She was never able to finish. I spent the second half of my life in Indonesia. Saly died the year after we left Africa.
The architect and urban planner, Le Corbusier, wrote about humanity as born in a state of insufficiency, therefore needing “auxiliary organs.” For Le Corbusier, our built environments, including building architecture, become prosthetic extensions of our insufficient human bodies. His thoughts form the basis for contemporary prosthetic theory, often cited in the world of AI and tech innovation. For example, a computer mouse pad becomes an extension of our internal understanding of reality, as it is the “limb” we use to create changes in our virtual realities.
Immigration is both an amputation and a taking on of prosthesis through cultural assimilation in a new built environment. The relationships we leave behind are an extension of ourselves. Their separation leaves a wound, then a scab, then a callous on which the new ones rest like a prosthetic limb.
I draw on concepts of scarification and prosthesis in this body of work. The collections of dots and lines that form many of the backgrounds are translated from traditional African scarification patterns. I choose to work burning on wood, mirroring the tattoos on my gums. The tree limbs and bark are functionally akin to scarred skin and flesh.
The cultural narrative of femininity I was taught as a child was –to be woman was to endure pain–and to be a good woman, was to endure pain quietly. Once I immigrated to America, the messaging about what it meant to be a woman changed only slightly. I am in pain. The pain I experience is often dismissed, by the immigration and medical systems, by male partners, by respectability culture.These works are manifestations of the silent scaring and re-wounding that many women experience. They challenge and subvert these narratives through their size and emotionality. The use of a once living medium is a metaphor for womanhood and immigration.
Run your fingers on the raised welts in the wood. Touch pain.
About the Artist
Nasreen Khan (she/her) is a writer, visual artist, teacher, and mother. She grew up in West Africa and Indonesia and has recently made a home in Indianapolis. Her teaching and artistic practices, rooted in questions of equity and earth-based spirituality, grapple with questions of belonging; celebrate cultural margins; and confront colonization, racism, and misogyny.
IG: @heyitsnasreen
Website: https://nasreen-khan.com/
June 2-July 23
Jeremy D. Efroymson Gallery
Wednesday -Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tube is also open until 10 p.m. each First Friday.
Closed Holidays
Made possible by The Arts Council of Indianapolis, The City of Indianapolis, Ruth Foundation for the Arts, Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation and more.


June 2 @ 8:00 am
July 23 @ 3:00 pm
Event Categories:
, ,


Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St.
Indianapolis, IN 46203 United States
+ Google Map