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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches 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.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid