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July 29, 2019

Indirect approach to celebrating, owning cultural diversity


July 29, 2019

The Chawkandi Art Gallery is hosting Abdul Jabbar Gull, Abro Khuda Bux, Agha Jandan, Alia Bilgrami, Aqeel Solangi, Khalil Chishtee, Meher Afroz, Mohsen Keiany, Feica and Zohra Amarta Shah’s art exhibition titled ‘An Apology to Shaikh Ayaz’ until August 2.

The show is a curatorial project by Jamal Ashiqain and Mariam Mushtaq Kazi. “[It] is not an ordinary art exhibition,” the catalogue released by the gallery quoted them as saying.

“It’s a visual tribute in the form of an apology celebrating a legendary poet of Pakistan who mostly wrote in the Sindhi language, and his contribution to literature is undeniable.

“The show is a totally contemporary take on the subject, with the artists taking an indirect, thought-provoking approach to express their views not only highlighting the works of Shaikh Ayaz but also highlighting the importance of celebrating and owning the cultural diversity and learning to value and celebrate it.

“We have requested them to go though the works, transitions and articles written on Shaikh Ayaz, and take a contemporary approach and produce work which is not direct and rather a reflection of an essay or poem or writing done by the writer in question.

“For assistance of the artists to understand the poems and works of Shaikh Ayaz we set up a group of Urdu and Sindhi writers and scholars who were online to assist the artists.

“At the opening we had one of the scholars open the show by doing an informal introduction of the poet and introduce the audience with the works.”

Aqeel Solangi

“I always take inspiration from writers and poets, especially from Amrita Pritam, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Nasir Kazmi, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai and now Shaikh Ayaz,” said Aqeel Solangi.

“By saying so, it’s the opposite stance that many artists take that their pictures can’t be deciphered or explained in words, but most of my works are derived from the already established narratives by poets and writers.

“I still remember, during my high school days, our friend circle used to discuss Shaikh Ayaz’s poetry. He wrote in ‘Kari Raat Kuhung’ that ‘the cloud is moving from one space to another’, symbolising carrying something from one place to another.

“Periwinkles in the elliptical disc are called in Urdu ‘Sada Bahar’, so by painting them here symbolising time, which is night, as stated in the title taken from Shaikh Ayaz’s poetry, where he is also addressing the night to take him to eternity, I have used white chrysanthemum.

“In this work the white chrysanthemum is used as some sort of vehicle to eternity. The clouds at the top are also serving as messengers, as in ‘Meghdoot’ by Kalidasa, and here the cloud is moving from one space to another, as if to carry something from one place to another.”

Khalil Chishtee

Born in Lahore, Khalil Chishtee is a visual artist based in New York City. Chishtee holds an MA in studio arts from Sac State, Sacramento, California. Before moving to the US, he taught at Lahore’s National College of Arts for a decade.

He intends his art for transformation rather than decoration, diversion or indoctrination. In his view the art is meant to serve for cultivating knowledge of how to be in the world, for going through life. And it can be effective for developing a deeper understanding of your own experiences.

Zohra Amarta Shah

A Pakistani artist whose diverse work focuses on social issues like child abuse, gender violence and human rights, Zohra Amarta Shah’s fascination with the fine arts, and especially painting, grew in the early years spent in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Later, she became more attached with the arts in Aberdeen’s St Machar Academy, where she took fine arts as a major. Her work blends between the western and eastern cultures, which came to her naturally by experiencing life in both the diverse cultures having rich artistic backgrounds and histories.

Born in Hyderabad, Pakistan, she studied at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. She has worked in a wide range of fine art and teaching environments, from soliciting artwork and performing historical and arts research to designing venue spaces.

She has been working with the Beyond the Diagnosis art exhibit, a project of the Rare Disease United Foundation, to help them with their mission of bringing attention to a wide variety of rare diseases that affect the global population.

Mohsen Keiany

Dr Mohsen Keiany was born in Shiraz, Iran, close to the world heritage site of Persepolis. He is an artist, author and lecturer in architecture and visual arts.

He did his Bachelor’s and Master’s in fine arts (painting) and completed his PhD and post-doctoral degree in architecture from Birmingham City University (BCU), UK. He has published several papers and articles on art and authored the book ‘Balochistan: Architecture, Craft, and Religious Symbolism’.

He is an award-winning artist whose work has been showcased at more than 70 international ventures. He has over 18 years of academic experience in a variety of arts-based subjects, and his research extends into multiculturalism as well as the traditional arts and architecture of different cultures.

Abro Khuda Bux

Abro Khuda Bux and his work can be mentioned in the category of the artists and works that have an earnest feel for social issues, and portray these issues effectively and with a passion. Born in Hyderabad, he has dabbled in every form of the visual arts.

His work may fall short of being labelled as enigmatic, but it has all the drama, mystery and intense content that can make one sit up and indulge in a watchful gaze.

But then the work bears witness to the fact that aesthetics as well as the intense feeling for the issues he addresses come naturally to the artist.

“To bring detail to the thought of each moment,” he said, “I have used different positions of the sun in colours mixed with golden in the background and hidden behind sharp, black strokes which portray death. Black is dominating but the colours still bring life to the atmosphere and show that life is there.”

Agha Jandan

“Creation in itself is never interrupted,” said Agha Jandan. “There is always room for Ruh, the Spirit of The Beloved to pervade, to enhance and, therefore, to impart more jot and a greater love.

“I would say that all these creations are but remnants of a sweet Reality that completely loses me. I paint blackboards in which I portray phenomena that happen in classrooms as well as in society.

“It’s a very expressive medium, as I use it to highlight the disparity between what is taught to us and what exists in society. Through these visual poems, I aim to render tangible the nobleness of spiritual emotions and the innate richness of the human soul.

“I accomplish this by using a combination of emphatic circular rough strokes or drawings symbolising the movements that culminate in mystical ecstasy. When I started moulding my work as per Shaikh Ayaz’s writings, I went through his poetry, letters and speeches.

“One of his speeches delivered in January 1987 at the award ceremony of Sindhi Adabi Sangat at the Hyderabad Press Club as the chief guest left me with lots of questions, somewhere in between negative and positive, hope and reality.”

Abdul Jabbar Gull

“Once, after visiting my studio, someone asked: ‘What motivates you to work?’ I replied: ‘Most probably the urge for self expression’,” said Abdul Jabbar Gull.

“As a sensitive being, I feel and experience inner and outer world impressions that I share through my work. But the more I try to explore the mysterious link of the corporeal world to the ethereal world, the more my thoughts fly on delicate wings of imagination.

“Searching for answers, I am confronted with ever-deeper, unresolved questions. Translated into the focus of my subject as three-dimensional, winged forms, I endeavour to discipline my thoughts and create order by juxtaposing them with the Thakhti, a symbol of awareness.

“Still, my thoughts fly hither and thither, leading me into unknown dimensions, ever-teasing ever-intriguing. I find wood and metal to be sympathetic mediums. They help me enhance my quest and continue it.

“My carvings in wood set out to explore numerous questions arising from the changing circumstances of my life. I have no conclusions, so my work speaks of the mysteries and ambiguities faced in this process.

“Shaikh Ayaz is considered one of the greatest poets of Sindh after Shah Latif and Sachal Sarmast. His poetry is great, but my regret is that even being born and spending all my life in Sindh, I cannot understand his message in depth because of the lack of my understanding of the Sindhi language.

“And this is my apology to Shaikh Ayaz. In my work I tried to express that there is so much great material available in various languages in the world but we do not understand that until we get familiar with or comprehend the vocabulary of the language they are written in.”