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Exhibition: Inspiration from excerpts

Updated December 18, 2016
We Need to Talk — About your Family, Hira Khan and Halima Sadia
We Need to Talk — About your Family, Hira Khan and Halima Sadia

An exciting new development in the Karachi art scene is the Mandarjazail Collective. Described by its members as a self-initiated group of visual artists belonging to various creative fields, it provides a well-rounded look into the creative youth of the city. Their first-ever show at the Koel Gallery, Karachi, plays with the idea that the initiation of any “new” idea can be traced back to an old idea, and traces of the latter always resonate within the former’s ingenuity.

What is most exciting about this show is the hordes of people that came out on its opening day, a welcome sight for the Pakistani art scene that is starved for an audience. People from every walk of life engaged with the works, probably due to the diversity of the participating artists. The amalgamation of various creative arts goes beyond crowd-pulling, however, as it stretches art practice beyond disciplinary boundaries, adding depth and nuance to the works, and giving you insights into human perception and creativity, and in turn producing a richer experience.

The most intriguing quality of each work is the recognisability of visual sensibilities specific to each discipline, yet it’s independence from them. One such piece is Mariam Mulla and Ayesha Haroon’s “Window” that provides a look into the complexity of emotions offered by a city, each working in their own discipline of graphic design and textile design to represent glitches or imperfections as inherent parts of a city.


Twenty-two artists use pre-existing texts as the starting point to interpret and understand complex ideas through their own individuality


For this particular show, each duo has picked up a piece of text as a starting point and built their idea around it. It’s interesting how each of them has approached this differently. While some have taken translated texts literally or taken direct inspiration, others have worked with it more conceptually. Still others have only treated it as a starting point and their ideas have evolved into something completely different.

The resulting works speak of vastly diverse ideas, whether it is tragedy and its impact on life questioned by Fahad Naveed and Sarah Mir; religion debated by Veera Rustomji and Shahzaib Arif Shaikh; or existential debates initiated by Zehra Nawab and Taha Ali’s works. Daniyal Tariq and Samreen Sultan venture into storytelling through words and graphic visuals and appeal to our intrinsic human nature to traverse the unknown. Meanwhile Numair Abbasi and Anna Saeed seek to draw connections between people separated through physical space by allowing them to observe and (at first unknowingly) be observed with a borderline controversial use of hidden cameras.

Old Stories, New Bridges - Chapter 3, Shahzaib Arif Sheikh and Veera Rustomji
Old Stories, New Bridges - Chapter 3, Shahzaib Arif Sheikh and Veera Rustomji

On the other hand, Amafah Mubashir and Shaheen Jaffrani, a yoga instructor and a research-based fine art artist, give the audience a chance to live in the present moment through a performance and an interactive piece featuring a meditative tranquil space. The piece urges us to be still for a few moments in our chaotic lives and contemplate our existence. It is fitting that this piece came right before Shanzay Sabzwari and Abdul Fateh Saif’s piece, which contemplates the inevitability of death, and makes us question what lies beyond. This walkthrough video installation was particularly effective in creating a suffocating experience of being buried alive through the small TV screen in the top corner, leaving you in darkness.

Arsal Hasan and Affan Baghpati work with one of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poems about a longing for home, viewing it in the context of today’s refugee crisis. The found object (the shelf) has a small hole from which a lone scared eye peeps out, which was inspired from a real life account, and implied fear; suffocation creates an unease which compels one to shut the (thankfully) functional sliding door of the shelf.

On a completely different tangent, we see Hira Khan and Halima Sadia’s introspective exploration of unarticulated emotions and opinions through the analogy of the water tap, expressed in a series of wall-mounted sculptures, which is relatable for any woman living in the subcontinent.

The Mandarjazail Collective began as a way for these creative individuals to practice art for art’s sake and go beyond fulfilling commercial agendas. This is evident while viewing these works, as one can sense the amount of passion and pure enjoyment that has gone into each piece. Each exploration is well thought and well executed, and the collective effect is engaging and vibrant, which leaves the audience anticipating the next step in this interdisciplinary collaborative journey.

“Excerpts” was shown at Koel Gallery, Karachi from Nov 15 till Nov 25, 2016.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, December 18th, 2016