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

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to enhancement or regression of democracy for Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents 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.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid