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December 15, 2019

Morphogenesis of self-punishment


December 15, 2019

My personal perceptual screening of sculptural display of the acclaimed visual and performing artist Jamal Shah at IAF 2019 not only introduced me to a vivid visual pleasure but also opened another avenue of thought for me. Taking me into a world of imagination as how would it feel to be bent in a traditional ‘taat school’ punishment way. Is it a vernacular virtuosity inspirational enough to be displayed for an urban populace or has it got a hidden meaning? asks my mind. I can’t decide between the two as both fit validly in contemporary socio-cultural scenario hijacked by a political turbulence in Pakistan. Art in its essence has to be free in its expression but unfortunately it always needs one or the other societal approval for its proliferation here.

To me conceptually these kind of mannequins seem to have had ingested enough heat of degrading wave of negativity towards art. A society with no connoisseurs to appreciate virtuosity. A people who are either illiterate or they are forced to behave blank at their intellectual level and finally surrender to the detrimental and unseen strike of times. The paradigms that identify an artist as a mischief maker and suppress him into a deep ditch of passivity and he finally surrenders and shuns his provoking inner soul, holistically himself! He gets ready to punish the revolting intellectual inside him. The intellectual who has to question falsely crafted enigmas and stigmas of society has to keep silent, bend on knees, excuse for being him and let go of every trespasser in his domain. He gathers all his latent energy that has to transform into anger by default still he prefers to go into hibernation. Artist is an optimistic constructor and never chooses destruction to sooth his anger and waits for a feasible time for his catharsis. Yet his silence is louder than words!

The giant magnum opus installed at Sir Syed Memorial Complex draped with buntings of the iconic flags and photographs of some prominent personalities broods the ambience, though completely cordoned off in a nook of the whole landscape of festivity.

A steel framework articulately sculpted in an interesting human posture balances its weight on just two feet, eloquently speaks of acumen of engineering involved in its building. The toil consumed in its welding in such a proportionate form and its transportation from its construction place to the final venue of installation is yet another effort to be acknowledged. It grabs attention of every passerby to fathom out the embedded idea in its giganticness that makes it a true magnum opus.

Then come the life size sundry figures of the same kind at different destinations of IAF 2019. Stood on the entrance and different floor levels of the art gallery at Sir Syed Memorial Complex these welcome and usher the audience of the festival creating a charming impression.

These seem to play hide and seek in their own secret and jigsaw puzzle like dominions created to hide on the upper floor level.

Again at PNCA they make a mark by honoring the grandeur of the entrance with their presence making humble queues on both sides of the red carpet as if they want to over whelm the visitors by giving them their due respect for coming to the display of artistic activity.

These sculptural virtuosities instantly instigate a viewer’s perception to figure out the process of their making and the science involved in making them stand in stability of equipoise. Casted in three dimensional molds of fiber glass these speak loudly of their mass creation. Draped in vibrant colors and three dimensional textures with dividing spines of classifications catch eye of everybody through the way. The distinction between the two classes is further enhanced by the footwear that makes their connection to the mother earth according to their stature in the circumstances.

May it be The Truck Art or Street Graffiti one explores a strong footprint of the indigenous art at its grass root level.

Surprisingly my vision of the whole display took an interesting turn when I came to know the original concept of the sculptural display by Jamal Shah’s own word of mouth. The word ‘cockerel’ pivoted my perception in a very intriguing way.

Jamal Shah explicates that it is not an outcome of a sudden thought but is rooted in his aspirations since childhood. He has always had kept cockerels from our native lands called ‘Aseel Murgha’ as pets. He likes the fighter spirit of the fowl. To him their strength is hidden in their posture carrying humility. They never like to surrender but keep on putting an effort to win.

He further says that he was always accoladed for his contributions in fine and performing arts and does not see this field as a putting off agent for solicitous artists. He considers himself as a blessed one for always been valued as an enlightened one. He could manage such a huge sculpture due to his natural and spontaneous talent of sculpture making.

At a conclusive note Jamal Shah shared his hearty wish as a sublime message for such ‘Murgas’ to shed this dehumanized condition and stand up to change their dictated fate.

After IAF 2019 happened with full pomp and show it is greatly hoped that it would stimulate authoritative masses to see a brighter future of fine and performing arts in Islamabad.

— Naveeda Maqbool Bhatti