Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who also goes by the performance alias, Faluda Islam, is an artist, performer, zombie drag queen, and curator of mixed Pakistani and Lebanese descent.
Bhutto was born in Damascus, Syria—where his father, Mir Murtaza Bhutto, an exile of the military regime of Zia-ul-Haq in 1980s Pakistan, met his mother, Ghinwa Aitawi, who had left Lebanon during the prolonged Civil War and Israeli occupation. His background living in close proximity to the mutating and destructive effects of modern day imperialism and political turmoil informs a great deal of his work. His practice zooms in on complex identity politics formed by centuries of colonialism and exacerbated by contemporary international politics.
Image credit: Zulkifar Ali Bhutto, Seedha (from the series Mussalmaan Musclemen), 2017. Inkjet print on cotton fabric, polyester, embroidery thread, lace, gold chains, and quilted satin backing; 5 x 4.5 ft.
Textile, including embroidery, quilting and applique, remain the main conduit through which his visual work is expressed, starting in the series Mussalmaan Musclemen that took pages from an Urdu translation of an Arnold Schwarzenegger exercise book, printed them on fabric, quilted them and replaced hard muscular features with flowery fabric, to his next series Tomorrow We Inherit the Earth.
Bhutto’s practice, however, is multi-disciplinary—employing video, movement, and storytelling. He explores the politics of queerness, its intersections with Islam, and how it exists in a constant liminal and non-aligned space. In January and February of 2018, Bhutto co-curated the exhibition, The Third Muslim: Queer and Trans Muslim Narratives of Resistance and Resilience at SOMArts Cultural Center where he was one of three curatorial residents for the year. The Third Muslim brought together 16 queer and trans Muslim artists, performers, and thinkers for a month-long series of events. Bhutto is still based in the Bay Area, and today he works as a teaching artist, a skywatcher artist facilitator in the Tenderloin, and part-time unicorn.
Image credit: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Zhayedan Hasan Ibn Abdul Lat and Guerilla Jang (installation view). Twelve Gates Gallery from the series Tomorrow We Inherit the Earth.
*Header image photographed by Robbie Sweeny.