‘Resilient Ambassadors,’ an exhibition of paintings that were vandalised in Ahmedabad, India, opens at gallery6 here today (Wednesday).
It may be recalled that gallery6, in collaboration with the International Creative Art Centre (ICAC) of Mumbai, organised a painting exhibition at Ni Gufa art gallery in Ahmedabad in August 2013 to promote Pakistani art in India. Sixteen artists with their 47 paintings participated as goodwill ambassadors from Pakistan.
The exhibition showcased a wide variety of Pakistani paintings including artworks based on heritage, social discourses, cubism, psychedelic narratives, miniature, female figures, aesthetics, landscapes, photo realistic images and compositions with silver oxidation.
The exhibition was attacked on August 16 by 25 activist of Bajrang Dal having anti-Pakistan emotions. They barged in, ransacked the gallery and damaged several paintings. They protested against holding an exhibition of Pakistani artists’ work as according to them, Pakistani troops were doing ceasefire violation and killing Indian soldiers on the Line of Control. The news was widely reported in Pakistan by the press and TV channels while the western media remained silent.
Discussing the return of the paintings, the curator of gallery6 Dr. Arjumand Faisel said, “These have returned home after intensive efforts. ICAC cut off all links with Pakistan after the incident, and I went through a very strenuous period while trying to retrieve the paintings. First, I requested the chairperson for India-Pakistan Friendship Association based in Mumbai, to serve as a link between gallery6 and ICAC, but he refused. Then I contacted friends in Pakistan, Dubai, India, the UK, and at the East-West Centre, Hawaii, and involved them to access ICAC for retrieval of the paintings. Ultimately, their connections and persistent push led to the return of the artworks. I am so grateful for their assistance.”
Out of the 47 paintings that went for the exhibition, 30 survived with or without bruises, 14 are badly damaged and three are missing. The fact that 30 survived is due to the reason that the display was on a rotational basis and half of the paintings were in storage at the time of attack. The participating artists included Abid Hasan, Abrar Ahmed, Akram Spaul, Aqeel Solangi, Arjumand Faisel, Hajra Mansoor, Irfan Gul Dahri, Mussarrat Nahid Imam, Mudassar Manzoor, Mughees Riaz, Mutaib Shah, Omar Farid, Mansoor Rahi, RM Naeem, Sana Arjumand and Wahab Jaffer.
Since the mishap in August till the return of the paintings in December, all participating artists showed remarkable tolerance. Not knowing which painting has survived and which has been destroyed, all of them waited patiently. To salute the resilience of these goodwill ambassadors, the gallery has exhibited these historical paintings in this show. Even the damaged ones have a story to tell and carry their value.
Talking about the Ahmedabad incident, senior artist Mansoor Rahi said, “The people who carried out this vandalism are not artists but a ‘dirty group’ and such groups exist in our country too. We should resist them by our artistic endeavours. The Indian government should capture these hooligans and punish them.”
Mussarat Nahid Imam, director of visual arts at the National Art Gallery commended gallery6 for playing a major role in exhibiting Pakistani art internationally despite constraints. “The earlier exhibition in Mumbai and then this one in Ahmedabad was a huge undertaking; bringing back the paintings has also been achieved in spite of many hurdles. Artists must continue supporting similar initiatives.”
Leading artist R M Naeem, who is also a faculty member at NCA Lahore said, “It is painful but I do not want to give this incident a political flavour. Mindless people are present everywhere and they are being used. No religion would tolerate such action. Every religion gives a message of peace and love. Pakistani artists have visited India before and have received a very good reception, but unfortunately, when this exhibition was held, there was tension on the border of the two countries and some (political forces in India) tried to benefit. We have to give up such activities and move towards peace, as it is beneficial for both countries.”
Sana Arjumand, another participant stated, “We should condemn such acts in all parts of the world. When these acts are against art and creative voices, it is our duty as artists never to give up and keep raising our voices in whatever way we can.”
These statements reflect that artists have not been disheartened by the incident but are expressing a resolve to rise against such circumstances and be active players in promoting peace.
The exhibition will continue till January 19 daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at House 19, Street 10, Sector F-8/3.