We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Untitled, from the series The haunted lotus



Khadim Ali

Pakistan, Australia

1978 –

Alternate image of Untitled by Khadim Ali
Alternate image of Untitled by Khadim Ali
  • Details

    Cultural origin
    Hazara community, Central Afghanistan
    Media category
    Materials used
    merino wool, afghan wool, cotton
    290.0 x 225.0 cm (irreg.)
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2014
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Khadim Ali. Courtesy Milani Gallery

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Khadim Ali

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Khadim Ali reinterprets the ancient Persian poem Shahnameh c977-1010, also known as the Book of Kings, from the perspective of troubled present day Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Shahnameh was recited to the young artist by his grandfather, which has since been appropriated by Taliban fighters to promote and justify their jihad. Ali once related to its protagonist, the warrior Rustum, who tragically kills and is killed by his jealous half-brother Shaghad. However, through personal experiences shaped by civil war, he now also identifies with the Shahnameh's antagonist demons.

    Depicted in an exquisite carpet are two demon characters, portrayed as tubby half human / half animal figures with wings, horns, a beard and goat ears. Their anthropomorphic features and double representation are emblematic of a moral inversion between good and evil, in an imperfect world where heroes fail and villains succeed.

    The carpet was created in collaboration with traditional weavers of Kabul, Pakistan. It is a talismanic object that carries great personal and cultural significance to Ali and the Hazara people. In Afghanistan carpets are treasured keepsakes, passed down through families over generations. Ali has recounted how his parents' own carpet was the only possession to survive a suicide bomber's attack on their home in 2011. A craft upkept by Afghan asylum seekers and Afghan people living in exile, it retains links to their history and homeland.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

    • Refugees, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre & Liverpool Regional Museum, Casula, 30 Jul 2016–11 Sep 2016

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 3 publications

    • Macushla Robinson and Khadim Ali, Khadim Ali: The haunted lotus, 'Khadim Ali in conversation with Macushla Robinson', Sydney, 2014, n.pag. (colour illus., detail).

    • John Saxby (Editor), Look, 'Jason Phu: the art that made me', pp. 21-23, Sydney, Jun 2021-Jul 2021, 23 (colour illus.).

    • Rachel Kent and Salima Hasmi, Khadim Ali, Australia, 2016, 70, 99 (colour illus.).

Other works by Khadim Ali

See all 11 works