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February 8, 2020

A great art initiative for snow leopard conservation

Islamabad

February 8, 2020

Islamabad : A unique exhibition that draws attention to the urgent need for planned tourism in Pakistan’s Northern areas and a halt to misplaced, haphazard construction leading to devastation of the area’s ecosystem opened at Gallery6 here on Friday.

Conducted with a limited budget, the exhibition is an impressive effort by a small group of seven artists and photographers who participated in an art retreat in the picturesque Hopar Valley in district Nagar of Gilgit-Baltistan. Titled ‘Art for Snow Leopard Conservation,’ the project was suggested by an environment conservation activist at the Snow Leopard Foundation (SLF) Syed Abu Ahmad Akif, who brought Gallery6 on board for the show. The exhibition is a joint venture of Gallery6 and SLF—a non-profit organization dedicated to conservation of viable populations of snow leopards and other wild carnivores across Pakistan.

Kyrgyz Ambassador EriK Beishembiev will inaugurate the exhibition, which features the works four artists namely, Bushra Khalid, Hamid Hambhi, Sujjal Kiani, Tahir Bilal Ummi; two photographers—Yasir Mehmood and ex-ambassador Tariq Zameer—and urator of Gallery6 Dr. Arjumand Faisel.

The intention of the retreat was for the participants to not only capture the plants, animals, mountains, lakes and glaciers of Hopar valley through different media, but also contribute to conservation efforts for snow leopards and their ecosystems while working in the snow leopard habitat. Known for its beauty, the snow leopard is found in snowy, rugged alpine regions across 12 countries in central and south Asia, including Pakistan. There are just 4,000 snow leopards in the wild, and their number is declining due to habitat loss, poaching and the impact of climate change.

Coming to the paintings, Arjumand Faisel has drawn his inference from the ‘Sacred Rocks’ in Hunza and has used similar symbols as inscribed on these rocks to narrate the effect of climate change and snow leopard poaching. In another work titled ‘Natural Pallette,’ he has highlighted the multiple colours of the rocks of the areas, which are being cut mercilessly for ‘development.’

Working on acrylic sheets, Bushra Khalid has created the effect of gradual disappearance of the image by painting in multiple layers of sheet. She has drawn attention to the use of snow leopard skin for rugs and dresses; the skin is obtained by killing these animals, thus causing their extinction. Hamid Hambhi has narrated the tragedy of decreasing snow leopards by presenting them as burst or deflated balloons. His paintings on canvas describe that balloons decorate our lives, but once they burst or deflate, they lose their value.

Sujjal Kiani’s painting ‘Until the last balloon pops’ highlights the need for preserving the environment and ecosystem. It stems from her observations of witnessing new unplanned constructions and other harmful activities in the region. Her sculpture titled ‘Who said time heals all wounds’ states that some inflicted damages are beyond repair, calling attention for action against climate change.

Tahir Bilal Ummi has captured the beauty of Hopar in his landscape paintings, presenting the green fields, magnificent mountains and the elegant snowy peaks. Yasir Mehmood’s camera, besides capturing landscape, has focused on the worms and insects, flora and fauna, and the people of Hopar and their homes, while the other photographer Tariq Zameer found interest in children, men and routine.