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Pakistan's Other Story: Explosion in Arts and Literature in 2010

Have you ever wondered if Pakistan is really as one-dimensional a country as stereotyped by the negative torrent of international media coverage that dominated the news headlines in 2010?

Have you ever thought that Pakistanis engage in any pursuits other than as perpetrators or victims of terror that the journalists find the most newsworthy about the world's sixth most populous South Asian nation?

Well, an Indian-American producer Madhlika Sikka on NPR's Talk of the Nation radio did wonder about it when she visited Pakistan this year. In the talk show aired on June 3, 2010, she described the main concerns of young Pakistanis follows:

"I think, that young people are concerned with the same things you'd think young people are concerned with. In fact, when I came home, the immigration officer asked me about Pakistan, and she said, well, what are they thinking about?

And I said, well, I met a lot of young people, and they're thinking about jobs, and they're thinking about the fact that the power goes out regularly, gas costs a fortune. They're really thinking about what their prospects are and the conflict with India, the war on terrorism, isn't at the top of their list."

She summed up her assessment of the current situation in Pakistan in the following words:

"Well, I think that I think that there's no doubt that if you live in a city like Islamabad or Peshawar, certainly where Julie McCarthy was, you know, they live and breathe this tension every day.

But let's take a city like Lahore, where we were just a couple of weeks ago. And last week, there was a huge attack on a mosque in Lahore, 70, 80 people were killed. You can't help but feel that tension, even though you are trying your best to go live your daily life as best you can. And I think that that push and pull is really a struggle.

But one thing I do want to talk about in the, you know, what is our vision of Pakistan, which often is one dimensional because of the way the news coverage drives it.

But, you know, we went to visit a park in the capital, Islamabad, which is just on the outskirts, up in the hills, and we blogged about it, and there are photos on our website. You could have been in suburban Virginia.

There were families, picnics, picnic tables, you know, kids playing, stores selling stuff, music playing. It was actually very revealing, I think for us and for people who saw that posting, because there's a lot that's similar that wouldn't surprise you, let's put it that way."




Along the same lines as NPR's Sikka, let me share with you some of the best kept secrets of Pakistan's other story which would take a lot of effort to discover on your own.

The world media have correctly reported on the deadly blasts caused by the frequent US drone strikes and many suicide bombings in 2010. But Pakistanis have also seen an explosion in arts and literature in the last few years as the nation's middle class has grown rapidly amidst a communications and mass media revolution. A British magazine Granta dedicated an entire issue in 2010 to highlight the softer side of Pakistan.

Granta has highlighted the extraordinary work of many Pakistani artists, poets, writers, painters, photographers and musicians inspired by life in their native land.



For example, the magazine cover carries a picture of a piece of truck art by a prolific truck painter Islam Gull of Bhutta village in Karachi. Gull was born in Peshawar and moved to Karachi 22 years ago. He has been practicing his craft on buses and trucks since the age of 13, and now teaches his unique craft to young apprentices. Commissioned with the assistance of British Council in Karachi, Gull produced two chipboard panels photographed for the magazine cover.

Granta issue has articles, poems, paintings, photographs and frescoes about various aspects of life in Pakistan. It carries work by writers like Mohsin Hamid (The Reluctant Fundamentalist), Daniyal Mueenuddin (In Other Rooms, Other Wonders), Kamila Shamsie (Burnt Shadows), Mohammad Hanif (A Case of Exploding Mangoes) and Nadeem Aslam (The Wasted Vigil) who have been making waves in literary circles and winning prizes in London and New York.

In a piece titled "Mangho Pir", Fatima Bhutto highlights the plight of the Sheedi community, a disadvantaged ethnic minority of African origin who live around the shrine of their sufi saint Mangho Pir on the outskirts of Karachi.

In another piece "Pop Idols", Kamila Shamsie traces the history of Pakistani pop music as she experienced it living in Karachi, and explains how the music scene has changed with Pakistan's changing politics.

A piece "Jinnah's Portrait" by New York Times' Jane Perlez describes the wide variety of Quaid-e-Azam's portraits showing him dressed in outfits that give him either "the aura of a religious man" or show him as a "young man with full head of dark hair, an Edwardian white shirt, black jacket and tie, alert dark eyes". Perlez believes the choice of the founding father's potrait hung in the offices of various Pakistani officials and politicians reveals how they see Jinnah's vision for Pakistan.

While Granta's focus on art and literature has produced a fairly good publication depicting multi-dimensional life in Pakistan, there are apects that it has not covered. For example, Pakistan has a growing fashion industry which puts on fashion shows in major cities on a regular basis. The biggest of these is Pakistan Fashion Week held in Karachi in February. Over 30 Pakistani designers - including Sonya Battla, Rizwan Beyg, and Maheen Khan - showed a variety of casual and formal outfits as well as western wear, jackets, and accessories.






There were scores of expos and trade shows put on by various industries, including a book fair in Karachi, attended by about 250,000 people. Publishers from the UK, Singapore, Iran, Malaysia and India also participated in the event.

Karachi's Mohatta Palace Museum hosted an Art exhibition, “The Rising Tide: New Direction in Art From Pakistan,” that included more than 40 canvases, videos, installations, mobiles and sculptures made in the past 20 years. Its curator, the feminist sculptor and painter Naiza Khan, told the New York Times that her aim was to show the coming of age of Pakistani art.



A Pakistani theater group defied the government ban and put on "Burqavanza", a satirical play in which all the actors wear burqa as a metaphor for hypocrisy in the nation. Adam Ellick of the NY Times reported that the play "doesn’t sidestep any of the country’s problems: a creeping radicalization, terrorism, government corruption, and interference by Western nations, especially the United States."

A conference celebrating 31 years of a theater group named Tehrik-i-Niswan (Feminist movement) included presentations, research papers, theatrical performances and a poetry recital just this month.

While it is true that Pakistan faces many serious crises, particularly religious extremism and terrorism, there is much more to see and report about this nation of 180 million people with a large and well-educated urban middle class.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Media Revolution

Along Grand Trunk Road in India and Pakistan

Pakistan's Urban Middle Class

Music Drives Coke Sales in Pakistan

Life Goes On in Pakistan

Karachi Fashion Week

Is Pakistan Too Big to Fail?

Karachi Fashion Week Goes Bolder

More Pictures From Karachi Fashion Week 2009

Pakistan's Foreign Visitors Pleasantly Surprised

Start-ups Drive a Boom in Pakistan

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Pakistan's Multi-billion Dollar IT Industry

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Eleven Days in Karachi

Pakistani Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley

Musharraf's Economic Legacy

Infrastructure and Real Estate Development in Pakistan

Pakistan's International Rankings

Assessing Pakistan Army Capabilities

Pakistan is not Falling

Jinnah's Pakistan Booms Amidst Doom and Gloom

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Comment by Riaz Haq on August 22, 2011 at 8:41pm
From Javed Burki Op Ed in Express Tribune

http://tribune.com.pk/story/236961/preparing-the-population-for-a-m...

For a country that now has the reputation of neglecting the development of its vast human resource, it is possible to reach a somewhat different conclusion about the preparedness of the workforce. When the data for the schooling of the young is examined in some detail, and in the context of what is occurring in other countries of South Asia, Pakistan seems well positioned to develop a modern economy. The data used here are from the work done by the economists Robert Baro and Jhong-Wha Lee at Harvard University. Looking at this data, it appears that compared to other large countries of South Asia, Pakistan is doing better in an area that could be tremendously important for its economic and social future.

In 2010, India had 67 per cent of the 15-plus age group in school while Pakistan had 62 per cent. However, it is at the other end of the educational spectrum — what educationists call the tertiary stage — that Pakistan seems to be doing considerably better than other South Asian countries.

In 1950, for India and Pakistan, the proportion of people attending tertiary institutions was 0.6 per cent. Since this has increased to 5.8 per cent for India, a ten-fold increase, and to 5.5 per cent for Pakistan, a nine-fold growth. For Bangladesh, the increase was spectacular, a twenty-fold growth. However, it is the impressive increase for Pakistan that provides the element of surprise.

Pakistan does well in one critical area — the drop-out rate in tertiary education. Those who complete tertiary education in Pakistan account for a larger proportion of persons who enter school at this level. The proportion is much higher for girls, another surprising finding for Pakistan.

With a considerably lower drop-out rate at the tertiary level, it is not surprising that the number of years students spend in school in Pakistan (5.6 years) is higher than that in India (5.1 years) but a bit lower than that for Bangladesh ( 5.8 years). For tertiary education alone, Pakistan’s youth spend more time being educated than those in Bangladesh and India.

It is in the last two decades that the real brake occurred in Pakistan. The proportion of the 15-plus age group receiving tertiary education in Pakistan increased from only 2.4 per cent in 1990 to 5.5 per cent in 2010. The proportion of students completing tertiary education in Pakistan is 41 per cent higher than that for India. Better performance, when measured in terms of the proportion of the population receiving tertiary education, matters a great deal for the economic future. As Baro and Lee point out, the estimated rate of return is very high for tertiary education, close to 18 per cent. This is only 10 per cent for secondary education and almost zero for primary education. The state, by only concentrating on primary education, is not buying a better future for the citizenry. It must make it possible to develop tertiary education as well.
Comment by Riaz Haq on October 23, 2011 at 8:04pm
Here are a few excerpts from Wall Street Journal story titled Fashion Weeks Gone Wild, From Aruba to Karachi:

If it's Thursday, it's fashion week somewhere.

This month alone includes fashion weeks in Moscow, Karachi, Houston, Tokyo and Portland, Oregon. Dubai fashion week begins today.

There have long been just four fashion weeks that matter in the industry: New York, Milan, Paris and London. At these events, designers parade their collections for retailers and try to make a splash in the fashion press.

But in the past five to 10 years, the numbers of cities and nations holding fashion weeks has burgeoned. There are more than 100 fashion weeks around the globe, from Islamabad to Rochester, N.Y. Event producer IMG is known for running New York fashion week, but it also produces fashion weeks in Aruba, Berlin, Zurich, Moscow, Toronto, Sydney and Miami, among others. Other locations have launched their own shows, hoping to boost their garment and retail trades.
------------
Overseas, fashion weeks often highlight regional talent and build the local economy. In Karachi this month, organizers tried to focus on business-building rather than thrilling local socialites. "Fashion in Pakistan for a long time has been an entertainment sport; at [Karachi Fashion Week], we are trying to really make it about the business of fashion," says spokesman Zurain Imam. Invitees were largely press and stores, with some Pakistani celebrities in the front rows. ...


http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204479504576639481685...
Comment by Riaz Haq on February 21, 2013 at 9:32pm

Here are excerpts of two stories about Karachi Literature Festival:

1. The Independent:

Karachi and Lahore literary festivals are proving a lifeline for the ‘other Pakistan’. The literary and intellectual scene is helping to provide a narrative arc for the country. At one session at the Karachi literary festival last Saturday a minute’s silence was held for the Hazara community and the victims of the militants.

In the morning Mohammed Hanif launched his short book The Baloch who is not Missing & others who are. How would you feel, he asked the audience, if your son or daughter did not return from their lessons? “If your child is late and he and his teachers do not answer their phones for two hours, what state will you be in?”
-------
A raft of Karachi novelists present at the festival, in addition to Kamila Shamsie and H M Naqvi, included 89-year-old Intizar Hussain whose Basti has just been shortlisted for the 2013 International Man Booker prize. The book has received a rapturous review by Pankaj Mishra: “This brilliant novel from one of South Asia’s greatest living writers, should finally end the scandal of his relative obscurity in the West”.

In a session entitled ‘The dynamics of Karachi’, one of Pakistan’s leading architects Arif Hasan and French researcher Laurent Gayer found ways to constructively pin-point the city. Kamila Shamsie’s twitter feed mapped this session: the ethnic divide is understandable; it is linked to land, but the religious divide is not understandable, it is being promoted.

----

In recent years no city has done more to map the narrative arc of Pakistan to international audiences in English through its writers. At the first literary festival in over 20 years, Bapsi Sidhwa, Tariq Ali, Mohsin Hamid, Mohammed Hanif, Ali Sethi, Daniyal Mueenuddin and Nadeem Aslam will be talking about literature and the view from the north.

http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2013/02/21/pakistan-finds-a-literary...

2. NPR Radio:

Any literary event would risk being irrelevant in a place as troubled as Karachi. Yet this festival was intensely relevant. The most prominent Pakistani novelists to emerge in recent years have made their country's crisis central to their art.

In a panel discussion, novelist Mohsin Hamid said he couldn't imagine separating politics and fiction. His The Reluctant Fundamentalist depicted a man's drift toward extremism; his forthcoming novel is called How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. Other sessions included Mohammed Hanif, who fills his darkly comic novels with power-mad generals and corrupt cops like those he covered as a journalist. Hanif was at the festival to introduce his new nonfiction work: profiles of Pakistanis who have disappeared as the government tries to crush an insurgency in the province of Baluchistan. His gut-punch of a book begins with a 4-year-old being shown the bullet-riddled body of his father.

Discussions at the festival were as intense as the writing. Organizers arranged an onstage talk with Cameron Munter, who until recently was the U.S. Ambassador, the representative of Pakistan's profoundly unpopular ally. Even people at this Western-leaning event had doubts about American policies, and a standing-room-only crowd hurled raw questions at the ambassador. "You're not serious" about nurturing Pakistan's democracy, a woman in the audience declared. It's true that America has collaborated with military rulers, and has struggled to support the elected government in power today.

http://www.npr.org/2013/02/20/172484768/finding-a-path-for-pakistan...

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 26, 2013 at 3:45pm

Here's PakistanToday on Lahore Literary Festival:

For two days, the Al Hamra Arts Council on Lahore’s famous The Mall Road was abuzz with energy as throngs of people came together to attend the Lahore Literary Festival, the first such event ever hosted in the city.
The two-day programme included stirring panel discussions on Urdu and English literature, along with book launches and book readings. Panel discussions included: The Courtesan in Urdu Novels: Legacy of Political Autobiographies: Urdu Writings-Future in the Punjab: The Holy Warrior in Pakistani Cinema: Literature of Resistance: Discovering Pakistan’s English-Language Poetry: Challenges of Language and Storytelling in the 21st Century, and many other informative and thought provoking discussions. The major themes explored during the discussions included politics and culture, and the identity and globalization of Pakistan’s literature. A number of artists and performers also came to participate in the event including a mesmerizing kathak performance by Nahid Siddiqui on day one, and riveting performances by local bands Laal and Qayyas on day two. Internet connectivity services were provided by Wateen Telecom and free water booths were sponsored by Pharmagen.
Panelists and speakers included eminent local and international authors, journalists, artists and intellectuals, such as Bapsi Sidhwa, William Dalrymple, Tariq Ali, Ahmed Rashid, Nayyar Ali Dada, Intizar Hussain and Ayesha Jalal, Daniyal Mueenuddin, Hameed Haroon, Jeet Thayil, Linda Bird Francke, Mohsin Hamid, Nayyar Ali Dada, Salima Hashmi, Tariq Ali, Tehmina Durrani, and Zehra Nigah among others.
Nusrat Jamil Chairperson of LLF’s Advisory Board, commenting on the conclusion of LLF said, “We believe that the first ever Lahore Literary Festival this year is a great step towards re-claiming and celebrating the very essence of our culture particularly amidst such social turmoil. The LLF has all the potential to become the country’s - in fact the whole region’s - favourite and most prestigious literary event.”
Razi Ahmed, the founder of the LLF said “The city government, the sponsors and the people of Lahore have show immense support for the festival over the past two days. We would like to thank all those who volunteered and helped us in conducting a successful festival. We look forward to a bigger and better festival next year. ”

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2013/02/26/city/lahore/lahore-liter...

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 1, 2013 at 7:08pm

Here's a Washington Post piece on Warren "Buffet disses coverage of Pakistan":

Warren Buffett has gobbled up a bunch of newspapers in recent years. Among them are many community papers, not the big titles that vanity publishers pursue. And an explanation for that acquisition pattern comes from the 2012 report of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.:

Newspapers continue to reign supreme, however, in the delivery of local news. If you want to know what’s
going on in your town – whether the news is about the mayor or taxes or high school football – there is no substitute for a local newspaper that is doing its job. A reader’s eyes may glaze over after they take in a couple of paragraphs about Canadian tariffs or political developments in Pakistan; a story about the reader himself or his neighbors will be read to the end. Wherever there is a pervasive sense of community, a paper that serves the special informational needs of that community will remain indispensable to a significant portion of its residents.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2013/03/01/buffe...

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 5, 2013 at 1:45pm

Here's a Time magazine article on literature flourishing in "troubled Pakistan":

Salman Rushdie was recently asked for his opinion on contemporary Indian fiction. The celebrated novelist surveyed the landscape for his interviewer, offering nods of approval to what is now a well-established range of Indian writing in English. But it wasn’t as attractive as what was happening across the border. “I actually think,” Rushdie said, “that the Pakistani stuff is more interesting.”

Thirty years ago, Rushdie published Shame, still considered one of the finest novels on Pakistan, and one that narrowly missed out on the Booker Prize. For much of that time, there was only the occasional novel written in English from Pakistan. Now, as Rushdie noted, there’s “the sense of a sudden explosion.”

As the world’s attention has been drawn to Pakistan’s problems with Islamist militancy in recent years, a flurry of exciting new voices have stepped forward to share with their readers a more intimate and rounded look at the country and its people — winning many plaudits along the way. Mohsin Hamid was recently described by the New York Times as, “one of his generation’s most inventive and gifted writers.” Nadeem Aslam’s latest novel, The Blind Man’s Garden, was praised in the Guardian as a product of “grace, intelligence and rare authenticity.”

This past month, Pakistani novelists writing in English also had the opportunity to meet readers from their own country at two different literary festivals in the largest cities of Karachi and Lahore. “For a while now we’ve had issues with public events,” says novelist and journalist Mohammed Hanif. “I guess weddings are the only things that really happen in public now. Music concerts have mostly disappeared. Other festivals are less well attended.” The literary festivals in Karachi and Lahore, adds Hanif, offer a rare occasion for “people to get out of their houses and go and talk about books.”

The two cities, with a combined population approaching 30 million, are also suffused in a rich cultural history. It would be difficult to pull off similar events in relatively soulless cities like Dubai, Singapore, or even Islamabad. “There is the requisite infrastructure here, engaged audiences, and a critical mass of novelists and poets that reside in each city,” says novelist H.M. Naqvi, the prize-winning author of Home Boy. “I expected large audiences. I expected energy.”

Strikingly, the festivals attracted thousands of young school and college students who had eagerly consumed the books and were brimming with questions for their authors. In Karachi, Hamid met a young man who handed over a missive composed by himself and two other friends. The trio, from the southern Punjabi town of Rahim Yar Khan, had pooled money together for one of them to make the several-hour-long bus journey to Karachi. The letter carried seriously worded instructions for the novelist. “We loved the sex-and-drugs scenes in Moth Smoke,” they wrote to Hamid, referring to his first novel. “We want to read more of this stuff.”

http://world.time.com/2013/03/04/pakistans-literary-festivals-a-sho...

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 17, 2013 at 5:09pm

Here's a Daily Telegraph story on new "Glee Club" TV serial in Pakistan:

The cast and crew of Taan – "musical note" in Urdu - say they hope it will unite the country in front of the television as families sing along to their favourite hits.

Set in a music academy, the 26-part serial tells the story of the budding singers and musicians as they try to become stars.

Nabeel Sarwar, the show's producer, said it would not shy from tackling Pakistan's big issues but would also offer an upbeat alternative to the despair and misery peddled by most TV channels.

"I thought what are the two things that Pakistanis all unite around – the cricket team that doesn't perform or the music that does perform," he said.

Pakistan's divisions have dominated the headlines so far this year. The country's Shia minority has been targeted in a series of bomb attacks, and Taan is being filmed in Lahore, where a mob torched 100 Christian homes on March 10.

Mr Sarwar said the show would tap into the dreams of Pakistani teenagers and feature some of their parents' favourite songs.

About 100 Pakistani hits have been rerecorded for the series, to be performed in energetic dance routines or as atmospheric ballads. They range from the devotional Sufi songs of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to the soft rock of Junoon, once described as Pakistan's answer to U2.

Filming has already begun and Mr Sarwar is in talks to sell the show to Pakistan's state-run terrestrial channel.

"I want a hit show that the whole country loves, that they bop along to, that they buy the soundtrack to, that they feel united behind, so that they feel at one with everyone when they watch this because there's something for everyone," said Mr Sarwar.

The show revolves around the fictional Hayaat Haveli musical academy in Lahore.

At its heart is a tension between a traditional music teacher and his younger rival, who trains budding pop stars, representing different faces of Pakistan.

Among their pupils are the offspring of well-heeled bureaucrats and a talentless wannabe who dreams of becoming a Bollywood actress.

But some of Taan's plotlines differ from the coming-of-age tales and happy endings of Glee or Fame. Instead they attempt to engage with the darker side of Pakistan.

One of the characters, Annie Masih is described as losing all her family in the 2009 attack on a Christian enclave in the town on Gojra, a real episode in which seven people were burned alive.

Another storyline involves Fariduddin, a member of the Pakistan Taliban intent on blowing up the academy before he is eventually seduced by music.

Hassan Niazi, who plays Zaki, the pop music teacher, said those issues would not distract from the main attraction of the show – the songs.

"Music is the only thing that can unite this country," he said during a break in filming.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/9935957/Pak...

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 23, 2013 at 10:42am

Here's an excerpt of Newseeek Pakistan story on Shazia Sikandar:

Her works are part of the permanent collections of some of the world’s most famous museums—the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, the Guggenheim. In 2005, The New York Times called her an “an artist on the verge of shaking things up.” The year before that, Newsweek counted her among the clutch of overachieving South Asians “transforming America’s cultural landscape.” Shahzia Sikander, arguably Pakistan’s most famous living modern artist, has been wowing the international art world with her multidisciplinary works inspired from Mughal-era miniature painting techniques and tropes. She’s been scoring accolades since graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1995. Last year, the U.S. secretary of State awarded her the Inaugural Medal of Art. She’s previously won a MacArthur “Genius Grant.” While Pakistan hasn’t entirely ignored Sikander—she won the President’s National Pride of Honor award in 2005—she’s hardly a household name in her home country, and viewed by Pakistani critics as an outlier. We spoke with Sikander recently about her art and life. Excerpts:

From the National College of Arts in Lahore to the pinnacle of the global art scene, what’s the journey been like for you?

Complex, the way life is. It’s hard to summarize more than two decades in a single answer—besides, the journey is still unfolding. In retrospect I would have, perhaps, made some different decisions, but I’m appreciative of all the opportunities and detours I experienced that helped me develop my ability to think and express.

You’ve rarely held any shows in Pakistan, why?

Not being invited in any serious manner to exhibit works in Pakistan is an issue. Compounding the situation is also the fact that almost all of my work got collected rapidly by international museums in the late 1990s and early 2000s. To show the work, it has to be loaned directly from the [collecting] institutions. It was never as simple as putting the work in a suitcase to be brought over to Pakistan to exhibit.

Do you think your work has helped change how women artists from the Muslim world are viewed abroad, judged on the basis of the work rather than the baggage of biography?

Our actions speak for ourselves. If anything my choices in life do not fit into any stereotypes. I am a strong advocate for women’s education. The support I received from my family and mentors in Pakistan was instrumental in allowing me to think for myself, take responsibility for my actions, and develop a healthy sense of independence and self-worth. Unfortunately, stereotypes get resurrected often around the world for all sorts of people. Muslim women are subjected to this much more frequently. Over the years there have been numerous opportunities to debunk or challenge these stereotypes, and I have been there many times through my work and through my life.

How much of your work is informed by your heritage, your Pakistani identity?

My identity is very much about my being from the subcontinent. It is not as if I left my roots and have to find ways to engage with them. I came of age in Pakistan. My engagement with Indo-Persian miniature painting started in the mid to late-’80s when I was studying at the NCA........

http://newsweekpakistan.com/the-forgotten-daughter/

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 13, 2013 at 8:00am

Here's a Bloomberg story on the art sales scene in Pakistan:

Osama bin Laden stares out at an army of shadowy figures. Each carries a machine gun and has the head of a parrot.
The roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York is covered with what looks like dried blood. Close up, the work shows shrubbery and bird feathers.

A patriotic picture of the U.S. flag isn’t all it seems. Each of the stars and stripes is made up of tiny Urdu verses asking for forgiveness and mercy from God.
These are all works by Pakistanis -- Amir Raza, Imran Qureshi and Muhammad Zeeshan, respectively. Pakistan’s most violent decade in history has come as a boon to the nation’s artists, with prices of paintings, number of art galleries in major cities and frequency of exhibitions all multiplying.
“I don’t think terrorism is the sole factor,” says Shakira Masood, curator at Art Chowk in Karachi, who has been asked to hold exhibitions in Hong Kong and Istanbul. “Artists may have gotten into the limelight from that, but they are very talented.”
The new generation of contemporary artists -- which also includes Rashid Rana and Shazia Sikander -- has started to sell more in international auction houses and seen greater interest from collectors and investors in Pakistan, the world’s sixth most populous nation. Qureshi is Deutsche Bank’s Artist of the Year for 2013.
Art Investment
“If you invest in a top artist painting, you will get a higher return” than many other investment avenues, says Tauqeer Muhajir, publisher and editor of art magazine Nigaah. Demand for Pakistani paintings is rising because they are relatively cheap and high in quality, he says.
Zeeshan grew up in the small town of Mirpurkhas. He used to be a poster painter for the local film industry that on rare occasion still resorts to painting two-story-high billboards instead of printing. Never did he imagine his work would be bought by London’s British Museum and New York’s Met museum.
He had a change of fortune after joining the National College of Arts in Lahore. After specializing in miniatures, Zeeshan started to sell works -- for less than $100 in 2003 and as much as $20,000 now. He brushes paintings on wasli paper and has even used Pepsi and Coca-Cola cans in his works.
“Pakistan artists caught the eye of international galleries and curators after the 9/11 twin tower attack,” Zeeshan says. “Terrorism, Taliban and Bin Laden are the biggest subjects of the century.”...

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-25/bin-laden-s-parrots-blood-...

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 15, 2014 at 10:12pm

Here's a NY Times Op Ed by Bina Shah on Pakistan film industry revival:

With more than 20 films released in 2013, production is rising. One of last year’s releases, “Main Hoon Shahid Afridi” (“I Am Shahid Afridi”), about a small-time cricket league in the northeastern city of Sialkot, sends a powerful message of religious tolerance. “Josh” (“Against the Grain”), in which an upper-class woman investigates the kidnapping of her maid, imagines a world where social justice isn’t beyond the reach of the poor. In the deceptively quiet “Lamha” (“Seedlings”), the son of a wealthy couple is accidentally killed by a rickshaw driver. The film looks evenhandedly and with compassion at the different griefs suffered by the couple and the driver.

“Zinda Bhaag,” the country’s 2014 Oscar entry, pays loving tribute to Lahore and 1970s Lollywood. The directors, Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi, enlisted real Lahoris in the depiction of the grim realities faced by Pakistanis who attempt to escape economic hardship through illegal emigration. Equally unconventional were decisions to cast the Bollywood legend Naseeruddin Shah in a lead role, and to take postproduction to India instead of Malaysia or Thailand. These fresh approaches augur well for greater Indo-Pakistani cooperation, and have jump-started an industry declared all but dead a few years ago.

Last year, Lollywood, too, stepped up its game. In “Waar” (“Strike”), an English-language thriller inspired by the 2009 Taliban attack on a police training center near Lahore, Pakistan is rived by the pressures of the “war on terror.” The film’s unabashed patriotism attracted huge audiences nationwide. “Waar,” which was Pakistan’s first big-budget film, earned some $1.9 million in just over one month, making it also the country’s highest-grossing film to date. Its success signals the eagerness of Pakistanis to discuss terrorism on their own terms. “We want to have the right to represent and choose our own narrative,” Ms. Obaid-Chinoy says, “rather than a narrative that is imposed on us.”

Gloria Steinem has said that “every social justice movement that I know of” started with people “telling their life stories.” By this formulation, Pakistani cinema’s new wave hints at a country on the cusp of a major shift. Each film is at once a window into a dynamic country going through difficult times, and a blueprint for how its people might find their way to better days ahead.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/15/opinion/shah-pakistani-cinemas-ne...

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    Algorithm: Origins of Artificial Intelligence in Islamic Golden Age

    When Gmail completes your sentences or Netflix offers you recommendations for movies to watch, do you wonder where it all came from? Do you know how airplanes fly or autonomous vehicles drive on auto-pilot? What algorithms are used to make it happen? Who made these possible? Where did the word "algorithm" come from? Have you heard of Mohammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi?

    Al-Khwarizmi:

    The word algorithm comes from Muhammad al-Khwarizmi, the name of a Muslim…

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    Posted by Riaz Haq on July 15, 2019 at 9:00pm

    PM Imran Khan Meets President Trump Amid Improving US-Pakistan Ties

    How much have US-Pakistan ties improved since President Trump's "lies and deceit" tweet on Pakistan? Has Trump completely abandoned the tough Pakistan policy recommended by the 2017 Husain Haqqani-Lisa Curtis paper? What do the US actions such as backing Pakistan's IMF bailout and BLA terror…

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    Posted by Riaz Haq on July 14, 2019 at 8:40pm — 1 Comment

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