Friday January 27, 2023

Itwaar Ka Din — artists unravel hidden darkness in children’s poems

February 17, 2016


Taking a long stroll along the lanes of nostalgia especially the ones taking us back to our childhood is indeed one of our favourite pastimes, but exhibition Itwaar Ka Din, underway at the Sanat Initiative, decided to peep into the dark, twisted narrow lanes which often remained sealed in our minds.

Curated by artist Azanat Mansoor the exhibition focuses on the popular children’s poetry book Jhoolnay by Sufi Ghulam Mustafa Tabassum, which apparently looks like a collection of poems and limericks but in reality takes a jab at our society.

This very jab has been explored by the six Lahore-based artists, who are a part of this exhibit namely, Haider Ali Jan, Hassan Mujtuba, Mohsin Shafi, Rabeya Jalil, Sahyr Syed and Zara Asgher.

Their work differently revolves round digital print on canvas, drawing, collages and pop-ups, animation and miniature art.

The title of the exhibition is also closely related to the book itself, as famous writer Patras Bukhari wrote in the preface of the book that it felt like a ‘Sunday’ which meant that Sunday is not always sunshine and rainbows.

Commenting on the title Mansoor said, “Although Sunday is a holiday it does have a depressing feel to it because one has to go to work the next day. I connect the title to this show on that basis. I reached out to these artists and asked them to focus on the grimness of this poetry book. This entire body of work is in response to that.”

It was interesting to see how six artists looked at the poems as the walls boasted portraits as well as digital art.

However, miniature work by Sahyr Syed was indeed fascinating as the lone, tiny whirling fan in her installations spoke volumes about the clutter in our lives.

Tabbasum's poems that range from popular 'Toot Batoot' to 'Chaar Choohay Ghar Se Nikle' to 'Nirala Shehar' all point toward ideas that lead to absurdism, except the fact that they are often ignored because of the poetry's association with children. Hence, Patras also hinted at the presence of the dark realities of life presented innocently in children's literature. 

Although all artists were not present, Mohsin Shafi who juxtaposed animals with humans by playing with anatomy spoke about inspiration behind his work.

“I basically work in layers to tell what I mean because it is not easy to express ideas openly in a depressive society like ours. Layers help me in conveying my point without really revealing it. The inspiration is from various places and I use images from media as well as my personal library so I don’t really want to disclose who I am using.”

He added that the poems gave him an insight into the political turmoil in the country: “My installation comes from Nirala Shehar which is a simple poem where weird happenings are taking place in a city like a stream catches fire — I relate the poem to the political scenario of the current time period. Although the stories were written for children they carry a dark and sinister message for all.”  The exhibition continues till February 25.