News / Asia

Pakistan's Sectarian Violence Creeps into Art Scene

Saud Baloch, 28, a fine art artist, stands near his sculpture called "No Fear" during an interview at the National College of Arts in Lahore, March 22, 2013
Saud Baloch, 28, a fine art artist, stands near his sculpture called "No Fear" during an interview at the National College of Arts in Lahore, March 22, 2013
Reuters
A gold bullet on top of Islamic stenciling, open sores and festering wounds, life-size sculptures of silenced men whose faces are obscured.

Pakistan's sectarian crisis has grown so acute that it is creeping into the country's contemporary art scene, spurring young artists to question the causes and assumptions behind the violent Sunni-Shi'ite divide.

Hardline Sunni groups have killed hundreds of minority Shi'ites in suicide bomb attacks and shootings.

Shi'ites say they are living in a state of siege, and some call it genocide. Fear has driven some families abroad while others have taken up arms against groups backed by al-Qaida.

Some artists have taken to expressing their anger at the carnage through their work.

Outlet for Fear and Frustration

In the elegant city of Lahore, criss-crossed with colonial-era boulevards and home to a bevy of lively artists, Imran Mudassar balances one of his latest pieces, "Secret Love," on his knees, a diptych of a golden bullet and human heart against interwoven Islamic motifs.

"I've started to incorporate the clashing of the Shi'ites and Sunnis into my work," the 31-year-old artist, who is secular Sunni, told Reuters at Government College University, where he is also a lecturer.

Imran Mudassar, 31, a fine art teacher, shows his latest piece Government College University in Lahore, March 22, 2013.Imran Mudassar, 31, a fine art teacher, shows his latest piece Government College University in Lahore, March 22, 2013.
x
Imran Mudassar, 31, a fine art teacher, shows his latest piece Government College University in Lahore, March 22, 2013.
Imran Mudassar, 31, a fine art teacher, shows his latest piece Government College University in Lahore, March 22, 2013.
In "Religious Landscape," he decorated a seven-foot (2.1 m)-high white canvas with designs from the Koran, Islam's holy book. Red gashes resembling flesh have been torn across it.

"Both faiths adhere to the Koran, but they fight over the Koran, too,'' Mudassar said of the piece, which sold for 135,000 rupees ($1,400) after being exhibited last month.

The nightmare scenario for Pakistan, a nuclear-armed U.S. ally, would be sectarian war. While Pakistan is not close to one, fear and instability are growing.

"If the violence continues, if the situation doesn't settle down, then more and more will start producing this kind of art," said Mudassar, whose self-portraits of a bullet-riddled torso a year ago earned him an established spot on the art scene.

Strife Makes Artists Look Inward

Pakistani art has been on an upwards trajectory since the 1980s, buoyed by media attention and domestic sales. Galleries have sprung up in cities and the two major art schools - the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore and in the city of Rawalpindi - produce a slew of talented artists every year.

The scene was given a boost when another young artist, Imran Qureshi, was named Deutshce Bank's "Artist of the Year" for 2013, celebrating his work addressing religion, terrorism and the mutating relationship between Muslim countries and the West.

Qureshi has talked of the bloodshed in his homeland being the inspiration for an installation of white interlocking bricks, which are splashed with red paint in the shapes of flowers and splotches of blood.

While Pakistani artists have traditionally focused on tumultuous political and social changes, with their work even thriving on them, they are now also engaged in self-examination, say art professors and gallery workers.

"Recent turmoil has sparked a new trend, and artists are now looking inward," said Zahra Khan, curator at the year-old Satrang Gallery, tucked inside the opulent Serena hotel in the capital, Islamabad.

In the leafy capital, art is complemented by black graffiti that has appeared in recent weeks, scrawled on brick buildings and in courtyards, saying "Stop Shia Genocide" in capital letters in English.

"No Fear"

In March, the Satrang Gallery featured a sculpture, "Strained and Sustained," by 28-year-old up-and-coming artist Saud Baloch, of a person curled up in a heap on the floor, encased in a latex russet-colored sack designed to feel like human skin.

Visitors look at a latex russet-colored sack designed to feel like human skin, at an exhibition in Islamabad, April 3, 2013.Visitors look at a latex russet-colored sack designed to feel like human skin, at an exhibition in Islamabad, April 3, 2013.
x
Visitors look at a latex russet-colored sack designed to feel like human skin, at an exhibition in Islamabad, April 3, 2013.
Visitors look at a latex russet-colored sack designed to feel like human skin, at an exhibition in Islamabad, April 3, 2013.
The piece is one of several haunting life-size sculptures by Baloch which feature people made blind and voiceless, which he says reflect brutality in his native Baluchistan, one of Pakistan's most volatile provinces.

Baloch is from Nushki, a town not far from the provincial capital, Quetta, which has borne the brunt of violence against Shi'ite communities.

In addition, ethnic Baluch separatists are fighting a low-level insurgency. Rights groups accuse security forces of waging a campaign of abduction and murder to try to subdue them, charges authorities say are exaggerated.

"My inspiration comes from where I belong. Shi'ites are being killed, as are the ethnic Baluch. Religious hatred and racism is affecting the whole country, pitting people against each other," Baloch told Reuters at Lahore's NCA, from where he recently graduated.

In its dappled garden is "No Fear," a statue Baloch says is a self-portrait. Made of fibreglass and fabric, a jeans-clad man with a satchel by his feet stands hooded and bowed, his hands tied behind his back.

"It's about feeling unsafe," he said.

Identity, or the lack of it, is the overriding theme for the January graduates of the NCA in Rawalpindi, a garrison city adjoining Islamabad.

Works at their final-year exhibit at Islamabad's National Art Gallery include glaringly empty white boxes, a Pakistani twist on The Frog Prince fairy tale and faces in masks.

Schezre Syed, 23, a graduate student from the National College of Arts (NCA), gestures beside her work during an interview with Reuters at National Art Gallery in Islamabad, March 26, 2013.Schezre Syed, 23, a graduate student from the National College of Arts (NCA), gestures beside her work during an interview with Reuters at National Art Gallery in Islamabad, March 26, 2013.
x
Schezre Syed, 23, a graduate student from the National College of Arts (NCA), gestures beside her work during an interview with Reuters at National Art Gallery in Islamabad, March 26, 2013.
Schezre Syed, 23, a graduate student from the National College of Arts (NCA), gestures beside her work during an interview with Reuters at National Art Gallery in Islamabad, March 26, 2013.
The "white noise" of increasing sectarian violence and "the cluttering of our minds with religious news" led graduate Schezre Syed to create "The Blind Print," which contains 17 lightboxes framing white watercolor sheets, all blank except for a date stamp of the years 2018 and 2019.

"Both sides in the Sunni-Shi'ite issue think they are right, and I took this as a perception of reality. When people look at this piece, they question what is real and what is not," said 23-year-old Syed.

Her classmate, Benazir Hayat, produced a series of three-color self-portraits with her face obscured by masks: one is conical and Venetian, another white and translucent.

"We are not really safe in our own land and we all need a mask to hide our faces," she said.

You May Like

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: MUSTAFA from: PAKISTAN
April 05, 2013 11:15 PM
We are in this situation because there is no justice and accountability. Everybody knows in our country who is killers of innocent peoples, but our CORRUPT police, ministers and courts will take bribe from killers and they will continue their operation of killing because they have full support of GOVT AND ARMY. Since Ministers and ARMY have security for themself so they do not care about common Pakistani safety who are paying BILLIONS of RS every year as tax so they and their family can enjoy their life.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'i
X
Scott Stearns
September 23, 2014 10:52 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video US, Gulf Allies Strike Islamic State Militants in Syria

United States forces have carried out strikes against Islamic State or ISIL militant positions in Syria - the first time Western forces have taken action on Syrian soil. Five U.S. allies from the Gulf joined the military action. Local reports suggest dozens of militants were killed. The U.S. also carried out unilateral missile strikes against a Syria-based terror group which Washington says poses an imminent threat to the West. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video High Intensity Focused Ultrasound Used to Kill Cancer Tumor

There is a new way of killing certain cancer tumors that allows the patient to go home on the same day. Surgeons at the Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California became the first doctors to use this procedure on a patient with the help of high intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, and new robotic technology. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in Five Countries

Hollywood stars Alicia Keys, Jennifer Garner and 30 others have voiced their support for a U.S.-backed initiative called "Let Girls Learn." The $231 million program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is aimed at ensuring public and quality education for girls worldwide. As VOA's Mariama Diallo reports, this new program will focus on five countries in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Video

Video UN: Relocation of Bedouins in Israel Weakens Two-state Solution

Rural Bedouins living in disputed lands east of Jerusalem could soon find themselves forcibly relocated. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Jerusalem that while Israel defends the move as in the Bedouins’ best interests, the United Nations says the plan threatens the survival of the two-state solution with Palestinians.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Prolonged Drought Plagues SW Oklahoma Farmers

Parts of western Texas and southwestern Oklahoma have been in drought conditions for several years running and the deficit in rainfall has taken a heavy toll on cotton and grain production. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin says the state has suffered $2 billion in agricultural losses since 2011. There has been rain in recent weeks, but, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Altus, Oklahoma, for most farmers it has been too late.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid