‘Baadban: Contemporary Art from Pakistan’ was curated by Rahat Naveed Masud and Amna Pataudi
In a global, pluralistic age, the need to develop cross-cultural narratives has grown. Nations now strive to project a softer image of themselves in international affairs to develop mutually beneficial connections. Cultural diplomacy has thus become an important component of international communication.
Highlighting the creative spirits and communal assets can help develop a sense of trust and acceptance of cultural diversity. Ideas of mutual understanding and trust are key to a harmonious world.
For Art’s Sake, a platform to promote Pakistani art on the national and international levels, organised an exhibition curated by Rahat Naveed Masud and Amna Pataudi to showcase Pakistani contemporary art in Tanzania – an East African country most of us associate with safaris. Borrowing the concept of ‘safari’ from its Arabic roots - expedition and adventure, the exhibition proved a medium of exploration in terms of finding new horizons of global art and victory, in terms of being able to inspire the audience with the exuberance of Pakistani art and talent of our artists.
The title of the exhibition, Baadban: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, and the curators’ approach remind one of Rumi:
On a day when the wind is perfect,
The sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty.
Today is such a day.
Baadban: Contemporary Art from Pakistan tried to capture the essence of such a day. Soaked in the spirit of creativity, catching the wind in their sails, exploring, dreaming and discovering, a group of romantics threw off the bowlines and set to adventure.
Joined by equally determined friends and colleagues, For Art’s Sake is always looking for ways to represent Pakistan and its inclusive artistic legacy. The diversity of the mediums and ways of expression only enriched the collection. Straightforward representations of extraordinary realities that the artists find themselves and their countrymen in remain the ultimate concern. The artists therefore stayed close to conventional modes of expression and execution. The traditional techniques require strict discipline and commitment. The collection challenged the dominant notions of contemporary conceptual art being all about planning and treating the execution as a perfunctory affair.
The artists selected for this show agreed that the thought processes, methods of production and execution add to the value of the work. In this sense, the group catered to the unique eastern aesthetic concerns in a contemporary manner. The exhibits ranged from calligraphies and illuminations to figural representations, landscapes and compositions that confronted the socio-political, cultural and traditional narratives in the exceptional and exotic ways. These narratives are deeply linked to our past. They dwell in our present and direct viewers towards a prospective future by showcasing Pakistani art in its true colours.
Another important aspect of the show was that it provided a unique opportunity to the younger talent to share the platform with more seasoned ustaads of Pakistani art. This allowed the curators to project viewpoints of multiple generations on similar situations. Thus, works of Mian Ijazul Hassan, Jamal Shah, Kaleem Khan, Irfan Qureshi, Rahat Naveed, Amna Pataudi, Sumera Jawad, Arif Khan, Ali Azmat, Mughees Riaz, Sania Samad intrigued the viewers. Younger voices like Mizna Zulfiqar, Hira Siddiqui, Zainab Aziz, Javed Mughal, Saba, Unab and Aqeela Shirazi and Anila Zulfiqar added to the diversity. In this sense, the exhibition provided a wholesome experience to its viewer providing them an overarching view from a high tide as the title of the exhibition promised.
The writer is an instructor of art history, visual artist and jewellery designer