News / Asia

Pakistan's Sectarian Violence Creeps into Art Scene

Saud Baloch, 28, a fine art artist, stands near his sculpture called
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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More