Shift towards the Pakistani.

21 Apr

What is the identity of a Pakistani? Quite a common question with Pakistanis these days; one may be asked this, or often like i did, one may just wonder themselves. I was recently asked this again, and I replied instantly, with out a moments hesitation but as I answered I felt my confidence waver, for a moment, just a moment, i felt stumped, wondering if my answer was complete enough even though as far as I was concerned I had resolved this question for myself a few years ago when I dealt with it in my thesis. Better think again.

My thesis went full circle when trying to discover what identity for Pakistanis meant. This question had driven me mad for the longest time, dealing with our heavy baggage of a colonial past, Partition and consequently migration from India, and the split in Pakhtunistan. It was pressing enough for me to tackle with it in my thesis, and after much research and heart ache (caused by painful tutorials) I decided that our baggage was indeed our identity, the diversity in people and culture that it presented us with was our identity and that it should be celebrated, our history made us rich in culture and tradition if anything at all.

However, recently I read an article by Kamila Shamsie that seemed to be celebrating and yearning an era bygone. The culture that she referred to with such nostalgia was one that my generation has not experienced; the 70’s that she spoke about so fondly, that were rudely interrupted by Zia’s regime are inconsequential for me. She wrote very convincingly about Nazia and Zoheb Hasan, about how they transformed the pop culture scene for the youth  back then, about how they brought ‘cool’ to Pakistani culture, so much so that I actually went online to watch the much hyped ‘disco dewane’ video.

Boy, was I disappointed. Not because of the tacky dance moves and dated clothes. Mind you, I am huge fan, love Nazia and Zoheb, and even though i have never first hand experienced their coming of age, the hype that Kamila Shamsie managed to create in her article, lingered around in my childhood days, they are an icon of the past, that some how bring out respect in me.  To come back to the point, I was disappointed because what she was raving about in her article is some what still happening: Our desire to become one with the west; to adopt their culture, language and dress, because we seem to have an inferiority complex of some sort and nothing hard core ethnic, local or Pakistani is ever good enough. That is what Nazia and Zoheb were doing in their video; aping the west. Tat iwhat got the approval of the impressionable minds of the youth of the early 80’s. This complex, not limited to0 just clothes, still continues; if you are well versed in english or can speak it well, you will get respect.

But times are changing, if you can speak good urdu, you will get respect. Thats the change now. Thats our identity. The youth of the 80’s might have been trying to keep up with the culture of post partition british influenced Pakistan. But the youth today, to some extent, searches for a Pakistani identity, questioning their past, owning today and in the process forming their identity, a Pakistani identity.

This is not limited to just language. Its evident in clothes and culture and tradition too. Media explains this point best. For me the Olper advertisements on tv with their focus on family life, religious ceremonies and traditional activities exemplify this.

Its normally not possible to see a phenomena happen if you are encompassed by it. However, I beleive my understanding of this situation comes from my brother who has just returned to Pakistan after ten years. He remembers Pakistan as he left it. He has come back to a different culture where people speak urdu and are proud of their pakistani heritage. He calls me a wannabe Pakistani! He says I am ‘trying to hard to be a Pakistani’ . Thats a bit difficult if you are born and raised here.

As far as I am concerned the search for Pakistan now is being a Pakistani.


16 Nov

How long before my work gets static?

17 Aug

Must I stick with the same subject of representation and query?

How long before I can break away from one or return to the previous?

Should I stick with my concept of inspiration (even when I am uninspired); because moving away will break the flow?

Screw the flow! Thats not why I shouldn’t break away.

It affects artistic credibility. Ironic how being an artistic is synonymous with creative freedom and freedom of expression: as and what you feel, when you feel it.  Yet there are a multitude of norms, do’s and donts’to conform to. What a farce. Screw that too! What is the sense in being an artist if you cant express what you want to as you feel it? All this conformity will only make me static and of course more commercial, but then again thats dishonest. If that is what I wanted to do/be I would have gone into design..

So screw the great Art establishment, I hereby declare a change in my visual representation and concept. Once again.

Not-so-Constructive a day.

11 Jul

A Not-so-Average-sunday:

Fresh, white, un-touched, dent-in-bank account, Acid free Arches sheet up on wall.

4:28 pm- back to drawing after forever. After so long, had almost stopped feeling liken an artist. Just an administrative, curative slave.

4: 29 pm- burnishing frenzy: a 30x 42″ sheet. Muscle building. Who needs yoga?

4:34 pm- Switch burnishing arm. Working on left arm muscles.

4: 35 pm- Sniffing brand new paper. Something smells like cow dung.. must be the masking tape.

4:41 pm – Break. Burnishing is a killer. out of breath.

4:42 pm- Examining arms. right arm bi-ceps are definitely getting ahead of the left arm bi-ceps. Damn.

4:42 pm- Back to burnishing.

4:48 pm – I ‘ve given up on burnishing for the moment. Panting.

4:48 pm- Time to dig out teh acrylics and paraphernaila.

4:50 pm. FILTH FEST: Traumatized by left over turpentine in container. Cleaning it would be a Horror! Thinking of alternatives…

4:56 pm- Now where is that pomegranate?

5:07 pm- All set; Annar found, laptop set, colours out and mixed (in my mind), brushes in place, the paper is calling out to me. GO!

5:09 pm- I need a table…

5:17 pm- My annar looks flat, although quite translucent.

5:22 pm – Cant believe i am using White paint :/

5:22 pm – post Two 2cm strokes: NOT USING WHITE ANY MORE. temporary insanity phase over.

5:30 pm – One failed, unresolved symbol down. Time to update twitter.

5: 32 pm – Solution: Emulsion.

5: 46 pm – Quick food break.

5:53 pm – Now that i have wolfed down an unhealthy diet of chicken full of growth hormone and preservatives, time to clean up..

Never Green.

23 May

I have just unearthed a new Phenomenon. World Pressure. Its akin to Peer pressure only much much more grand.

Its very seldom that we take out time to think about culture as it develops around us. Unfortunate as it we are all sheep; some slow sheep – because they take their time to follow popular trends (mostly because they need more confirmation) – and some  fast sheep, these are real quick in picking up on new behavior patterns and advancements like the World Wide Web.

The fact is that we are all now connected in through the world wide web. And the latest FaceBook fiasco only further re-inforces this fact. Something that occurs in New York and Texas becomes my invisible reality. Regardless of the reasons for quitting facebook, how many of us can actually do it? After a number of heated debates with freinds and family I realised that it is impossible to do something as drastic as quiting facebook. I say Drastic because its really no big deal, I mean we are doing just fine without it for days now, and grew up just fine before it was invented but perhaps because of world pressure its unimaginable to do something of the sort now.

My own excuse for not quitting is that its regressive to do something of the sort in this Age of Communication! but is that really it? If I were to be honest its because everyone is there, how can I not be? Yes I admit, to some extent I am also a sheep. And this despite the fact that I don’t even get much time for checking my page regularly let alone indulge in virtual harvest on some virtual farm?, I am not addicted, in fact, if I can manage it, I like to take ‘Days off’ thats when I try to get away with not checking my email!! with my self as an example i have proved a large number of us being Sheep.

Along with being a sheep, I am also technically ignorant. Up until recently i couldn’t determine the difference between the finder and terminal of my computer. This ignorance perhaps is what makes me believe that websites like FB leave us super vulnerable.  After all everything is now virtual. anyone can google me, and read this blog, all you have to do is search my five letter name on Twitter and determine exactly what i am thinking when, find any one of my friends on facebook and figure out where i was last night and the activities I have planned for the next three months. Do I really want to be that exposed? And that to, to anyone, anywhere! I am in Pakistan, but this person could be sitting in Timbaktu for all I know and stalking me  -this is my own doing of course, I am not blaming the creep in Timbaktu- I know there are privacy settings, but not only are their people more technically sound than me out there, there are ALWAYS loopholes.

I feel naked all of a sudden, and yet here I sit, updating my blog…’Sheep’ i think to myself and press ‘publish’.

The Birth of Pakistan- khayal Khana

18 Apr

Off to China town

16 Apr

I just happened to turn the tv on and catch the latest in chinese music videos on some random channel; I don’t remember the last time I was this disturbed. Or unsettled. I am not certain of the emotion just yet.

Anyways, moving towards why I was disturbed and what the videos represented; it was an appalling mixture of Pussy cat dolls, Rihanna and Beyonce, and thats ok since I quite like Rihanna, but in this video nothing fit. America has a history of  immigration which has given rise to various sub-cultures, youth cultures etc. Just the immitation of these by chinese girls , maybe women, God knows, they all look so freakishly child-like, was …. unsettling. It wasn’t just the imitation that seemed misplaced, and I don’t know much about chinese culture, but i doubt ghetto New york surfaces anywhere in China. and perhaps it wasn’t so much the imitation, i mean we live i a global world and every body has access to everything, and the grass is definitely greener on the other side, but those crass dance moves by those ultra small chinese girls who look like they should be in the seventh grade was enough to scandalize me.

Anyways, this made me think, if we were doing the same, i mean it’s no secret that we have our fair share of wannabes. Example no. 1: who can forget Princess Annie and that big guy, with lots of chains around his neck, rapping to her songs. Gag.

And then there is the new breed, Nida Arab or something.. though she isn’t as embarassing as Princess Annie..

I suppose we all have our share of wannabes, I mean take some of Sadia Imam’s Tv Drama’s into consideration. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD stop copying Indian soaps. The ironic part is, the Indian soaps she copies are an illusion. Its what most of india wants to be. The representation in those soaps is an aspiration and not a reality!

…. Whats to be done? sit and crib in your blog post, best thing ever…

SCUM Revisited.

10 Apr

Here is an excerpt from the SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto by Valerie Solanas.

I get a real kick out of it every time i read it!

Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.

It is now possible to reproduce without the aid of males(or, for that matter, females) and to produce only females. We must begin immediately to do so. Retaining the mail has not even the dubious purpose of reproduction. The male is a biological accident: the Y (male) gene is an incomplete X (female) gene, that is, it has an incomplete set of chromosomes. In other words, the male is an incomplete female, a walking abortion, aborted at the gene stage. To be male is to be deficient, emotionally limited; maleness is a deficiency disease and males are emotional cripples.

Being an incomplete female, the male spends his life attempting to complete himself, to become female. He attempts to do this by constantly seeking out, fraternizing with and trying to live through an fuse with the female, and by claiming as his own all female characteristics — emotional strength and independence, forcefulness, dynamism, decisiveness, coolness, objectivity, assertiveness, courage, integrity, vitality, intensity, depth of character, grooviness, etc — and projecting onto women all male traits — vanity, frivolity, triviality, weakness, etc. It should be said, though, that the male has one glaring area of superiority over the female — public relations. (He has done a brilliant job of convincing millions of women that men are women and women are men). The male claim that females find fulfillment through motherhood and sexuality reflects what males think they’d find fulfilling if they were female.

Men are responsible for:

War: The male’s normal compensation for not being female, namely, getting his Big Gun off, is grossly inadequate, as he can get it off only a very limited number of times; so he gets it off on a really massive scale, and proves to the entire world that he’s a `Man’. Since he has no compassion or ability to empathize or identify, proving his manhood is worth an endless amount of mutilation and suffering and an endless number of lives, including his own — his own life being worthless, he would rather go out in a blaze of glory than to plod grimly on for fifty more years.

Prejudice (racial, ethnic, religious, etc): The male needs scapegoats onto whom he can project his failings and inadequacies and upon whom he can vent his frustration at not being female. And the vicarious discriminations have the practical advantage of substantially increasing the pussy pool available to the men on top.

Great Art’ and `Culture’: The male `artist’ attempts to solve his dilemma of not being able to live, of not being female, by constructing a highly artificial world in which the male is heroized, that is, displays female traits, and the female is reduced to highly limited, insipid subordinate roles, that is, to being male.

Ugliness: Being totally sexual, incapable of cerebral or aesthetic responses, totally materialistic and greedy, the male, besides inflicting on the world `Great Art’, has decorated his unlandscaped cities with ugly buildings (both inside and out), ugly decors, billboards, highways, cars, garbage trucks, and, most notably, his own putrid self.

Eventually the natural course of events, of social evolution, will lead to total female control of the world and, subsequently, to the cessation of the production of males and, ultimately, to the cessation of the production of females.

But SCUM is impatient; SCUM is not consoled by the thought that future generations will thrive; SCUM wants to grab some thrilling living for itself. And, if a large majority of women were SCUM, they could acquire complete control of this country within a few weeks simply by withdrawing from the labor force, thereby paralyzing the entire nation. Additional measures, any one of which would be sufficient to completely disrupt the economy and everything else, would be for women to declare themselves off the money system, stop buying, just loot and simply refuse to obey all laws they don’t care to obey. The police force, National Guard, Army, Navy and Marines combined couldn’t squelch a rebellion of over half the population, particularly when it’s made up of people they are utterly helpless without….

I am Informing myself with what the city has to offer. Lets start at Home!

9 Apr

Globalization/Glocalization has opened up one too many avenues of information. And for a person like me, who lives to absorb information, (i feel so greedy sometimes) I feel like I don’t have enough time to keep up with all the learning!!

What to do?!

Anyways, heres one group making good use of the baggage of technology and exposure that globalization comes with.

here’s an excerpt from the interview.. very inspiring!

“I was talking about how media art is not going to evolve in Pakistan in the same way that it does in the West…

…what we realised was that in the future we need some kind of institute, or an infrastructure from where media art discussions are going to take place; where there can be dialogue. In Pakistan we’ve had years of censorship – particularly in the eighties – pages were literally ripped out of history books. So for my generation, now in their late 30’s, there’s a blank. We don’t have a history. Yet all of a sudden with the internet coming in, there’s so much information and what’s happening is it’s all getting mixed up: past, present, everything. “

It seems like it wasn’t so easy for Atteqa to set up an Institute.. (I wish I could deny this truth about Pakistan)

“But I found that the problem with setting up an institute in this country is that you need support. If you get government support and the government changes, then that’s the end of your institute. If you have a space and you don’t have the funds to run it then all the time you’re just worrying about funds. So we decided as Mauj that we would be fluid. We would use all the empty spaces that are in this city for our meeting spots. So sometimes we meet in cafes, sometimes in the park, other times we meet at someone’s house. It works for us. That was the whole idea: to make it a grassroots yet sustainable collective that’s low profile and so ends up achieving much more.”

Following is one of their most interesting projects..

“…the collaboration with students in Denmark..”

We’ve been holding a workshop in a high school in Karachi, where we’re teaching the students how to use cameras and video-cameras – introducing them to media art theory, music festivals, etc. Part of this was a Skype exchange with a group of high school students in Denmark in three sessions. We introduced ourselves and told each other what we thought of the other person’s country. It was interesting because neither group knew much about the other person’s country, except for this Danish cartoon incident. So that came up. They had just been seeing a lot of bad coverage of Pakistan on their TV. The second step was based on the Skype conversation we had, each student decided to show a certain part of their city in a certain way. They either photographed it, they created a montage, or they collected images and texts. Then we created a blog where we put up all the student’s work. The Danish students also put up their work. We saw the blogs and for the third session we commented and had discussions as to “what is this?”, “why is this man standing like this?!” The Danish students were very interested to see women fully covered walking across the school courtyard, for example. Afterwards the Danish students wrote a little bit, because it was their English class. They were amazed that our students could speak English so fluently! The English teacher asked me for some names of Pakistani books that she could look at putting into the school curriculum. So I think overall it was a great success and it broke a lot of stereotypes.”

Exciting! and so much of what they do is so similar to the khayal Khana Agenda; oane day very soon InshaAllah, Khayal Khana will do what it initially intended to…

Truck Love!

9 Apr

Truck Love

I find this composition unique and the subject matter nostalgic.

Despite living in the midst of the Karachi city,  I miss out on such aesthetic details of life here, maybe because  it forms part of my ‘mundane’, or perhaps i don’t engage enough with my city.

This Image, caught by Gemma’s camera is a source of immense inspiration for me.