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February 9, 2017

Art that delves into various aspects of partition

February 9, 2017

Exhibition titled ‘Taqseem’ at Koel Gallery showcases works of nine
artists, each one of them having their own take on the word

On entering the Koel Gallery, the theme revolving around the exhibition titled “Taqseem” becomes pretty clear as 2017 marks 70 years since the Partition of the Subcontinent in 1947.

However, on looking at various pieces, it can be safely said the treatment of "partition" had not been restricted to the historic event, rather delves into the description of the word itself.

“Seventy years on since Partition, we thought it would be prudent to celebrate Koel’s 10th anniversary with that theme but while that discourse is present, the exhibition is trying to look at more than that,” explained Zarmeene Shah, the curator of Taqseem.

“The word ‘Partition’ has been deconstructed, for instance Manto used the word ‘batwara’ specifically in the context of 1947 but it still has many connotations,” she added.

Some of the nine artists, whose artworks were on display, delved into the dynamics of Karachi as to how the Partition or divide had not halted with 1947, but become a continuous process instead.

“It has personal, political and urban narratives all together all the while giving space to class divide and special partitioning as well,” Shah noted.

A huge woven carpet by David Alesworth, all the way from Toronto, rested at the corner representing the Bagh-e-Jinnah or the Lawrence Gardens in Lahore as the area clearly mapped out roads and landmarks.

At the opposite end, Imran Channa’s digital print on a panaflex titled “Find the Real Jinnah” had seven looks of Muhammad Ali Jinnah sitting in a single row in different attires.

Jamil Dehlavi’s collection of various items owned by his family depicted the reconciliation of two cultures namely Indian and French for he was born to a French mother and an Indian father.

While books handed down belonged to his maternal grandparents, the skull of a man-eating tiger belonged to his father who had hunted it - all placed on an old-fashioned trunk.

Zahra Malkani and Shahana Rajani’s works addressed the idea of Partition in the context of an unending process and both artists focused on Gadap which now lies at the mercy of a private corporation.

“We were not interested in just looking at Partition as one major event in our history but rather how it has become a lasting practice and is still contributing to an ongoing devastation that is happening even today. These acts of enclosure and boundary-making by privatisation of land are continuing to bring destruction and alienation,” Shah said.

“The transformation that has been happening in the local ecology and community because of influential builders taking it over under the pretext of ‘developing’ it caught our interest. We worked on it for about six months and had researchers, artists, historians and ecologists working alongside us. We worked thoroughly to share it with the public,” she explained.

An artist, Seher Naveed, used cartography to explain the divide of safe and unsafe places in Karachi by adding a bit of humour.

“I was working with maps and wanted to use humour to mark safe areas in Karachi. I needed a methodology so I took up 2011 because highest number of bomb attacks in the city that year and pinned those locations on the map,” Naveed added.

She recounted that she was unable to find a proper map of the city and had to use Google Earth to stitch the map together.

“As I was working on Photoshop, I decided to flip the image and all safe sites fell into the Arabian Sea. I was trying to use sarcasm to point out that no area in Karachi is safe and the only exception is the sea,” she added.