Displaced Anatomies — Salma Ahmad Caller

Some of us who are displaced never had a fixed abode. Like the shaman’s diver bird, we can only travel between worlds, from land to water to sky. Lost everywhere, at home anywhere, we drag fragments from one domain into another, disrupting the boundaries of others. Mobile bodies of the imagination, shape shifters with wings, fins and scales.IMG_1285

When the land is painful we enter the deep water or we dissociate into the sky. Along the way, multiple transformations occur, they are like mutilations, breakages, or fractures, but they are also an incorporation. Incorporate means to take into your body, or give something bodily form. So painful transformations are also incorporations of contradictions, a harmonising of oppositions, creating a discordia concors. A harmony of disparate parts. A harmonious discord. The diver bird migrates on a journey through other people’s meanings, and has to have at least three bodies.


Dispersed Body (Land Body): needed to withstand trauma, dissociation, fragmentation of reality, and a loss of sense of belonging, and an impossibility of wholeness and completeness of body and self.

IMG_1282 (1)

Out of Time Body (Sky Body): A body that must exist with an altered sense of time. This body also functions as a time machine, where the painful experiences of another generation secrete themselves inside this body and express themselves unexpectedly. This body knows no fixed reality.


Empathic Body (Water Body): The most important body of all, one that becomes the materials it comes into contact with, an empathy with the world and the othernesses of it, dragging materials, sensations and substances inside itself, which then displace fundamental anatomy or even replace it. A body with fluid boundaries, a fluctuating, ever changing body that can accommodate multiple ways of being.


Things to do with embroidery left traces in my body. Each needle prick and drawing of a thread. A flower of golden silk I once embroidered to please, now unfurls in a corner of my insides. A piece of torn lace, once a delicate and fragile sensation, now clings near some nerve endings, waiting.


Some past fire burnished an odd baroque carving of my gut. Marked, altered, displaced and replaced, my body is not mine.



All images published here are details from ‘A Displaced Anatomy’, Watercolour and gold paint on paper, 97.5cm x 220cm.

See also, by the same author, ‘The longing in the strands: painted body thoughts’, published 20 August 2014.

Salma Ahmad Caller can be reached at salmacaller@gmail.com.