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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    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.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora