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ISLAMABAD: To celebrate the national poet’s work, the Nomad Art Gallery and Culture Centre hosted an art exhibition titled ‘Poetry by Iqbal’ on Tuesday which featured the works of four women artists.

It was centered on the Payam-e-Mashriq, or the message from the east, which is a collection of philosophical poetry by Allama Iqbal. He wrote it in Persian and is in response to West-östlicher Diwan by Goethe, a German poet.

It is an eloquent, informed dialogue with Europe. The collection sets forth Iqbal’s philosophy in life and is a sketch of the European philosophical and political scene at the time.

Each artist had been inspired by certain parts of the collection.

Syeda Fatima’s work revolves around the fading impact of the Urdu language and its literature. She said a native language is an indicator of culture and identity, adding that, “One connects to culture and history through one’s mother tongue. Urdu is declining because of the increasing impact here of other languages. Our identity, our norms and culture have become ambiguous with the passing of time.”

Amna Yaseen, who is a visual artist working in multiple mediums, said her work was inspired from Kamila Shamsi’s quote, “My history is your playground”.

Her work includes invasions on Pakistan which she has depicted through text and the erosion of architectural sights and history. She said: “The Dai Anga series is based on the imagery I found in her mosque and tomb, Gulabi Bagh.”

—Photos by Tanveer Shahzad
—Photos by Tanveer Shahzad

The third artist, Arfa Farooq, has produced monochromatic pieces. She said her work was about the negativity of the mind. She added, “I have expressed this through the symbolic embodiment of sour, bitter, spicy and tangy vegetables.”

The exhibition also showcased the work of Shireen Gheba Najib whose pieces are based on a translation of the collection by Professor Hadi Hussein. She said the nation has missed out on Iqbal’s works because the language he uses is very obtuse.

She added, “And we even more distanced from the Payam because it is in Persian. We need to make his work more accessible for the younger generation.”

Shireen is an artist, writer and educationist whose career started with a solo exhibition at the Pakistan National Council of Arts in 1981. She is currently working on paintings in three genres: expression, abstract and semi-realistic.

Nageen Hayat, founder and director of Nomad said the artist’s work was playful, symbolic and ethereal. She said, “It makes visible the limits of nature”.

An art collector, Nauman Khalid, applauded Nageen for providing budding artists with a space to show their work.

The Austrian ambassador, Brigitta Blaha, also visited the exhibition and said she was a frequent visitor to the gallery. The envoy said the embassy had celebrated their national day by bringing Austrian musicians to Pakistan and that this was the beginning of cultural exchanges where artists will work together to begin dialogue.

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2015

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