Students listen to the panel discussion at the exhibition. Photo: Zindagi Trust
Students listen to the panel discussion at the exhibition. Photo: Zindagi Trust

Government school students exhibited their artworks on Friday night at the Faraar gallery inside The Second Floor (T2F) for the opening of 'Ta'aruf — An Introduction between Two Worlds' — an exhibition of student art from two public girls' schools managed by the Zindagi Trust.

The show kicked off with a panel discussion titled 'Making Art Accessible', featuring writer and art critic Rumana Husain, I AM Karachi Executive Director Ambareen Thompson and Head of Arts at Zindagi Trust Anam Shakil Khan. It was moderated by curator and writer Aziz Sohail.

The panel adopted an interactive format, framing their discussion around questions collected from the audience, which made for an engaging conversation.

Speakers stressed the importance of art in public spaces, sharing their experiences of creating public art – through I AM Karachi’s walls project, performances at the Karachi Biennale and student contributions to a public art installation.

“Art is something that unites people from all walks of life because it isn’t limited by language or religion,” said Ambareen Thompson, inviting Karachiites in the audience to be fearless and creative in transforming the city through public art.

The students brought with them fresh perspectives to the conversation. Some wondered how an ordinary citizen could use art to bring about a positive social impact, while others shared stories of the mixed reactions they have faced to even thinking about choosing art as a study or career option.

“Why do we draw boundaries around a child’s creativity as she grows older?” asked Ayesha, a student of Class 9 at the Khatoon-e-Pakistan Government Girls School, while sharing a passionate account of the evolution of her mother’s opinion of the arts as a career choice.

Ayesha, along with fellow student Hira from the SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School, later impressed the audience with a live booth of blind contour sketches, where the two budding artists created portraits without looking at their canvases.

The exhibition itself featured portraits in the styles of cubism, collage and abstraction inspired by Picasso, Da Vinci and Paul Klee, made by students ranging from Class 3 to Class 9.

Other prominent works included Monet-inspired impressionism drawings in pastel, a reinterpretation of the Mona Lisa in Pakistani cultures and optical illusions.

“I’m so inspired by these young girls and their passion for art despite the roadblocks they often face,” said Saba Gul, founder and CEO of ethical fashion label Popinjay. “Their understanding of art forms and their confidence when they speak about their work is impressive. Coming to T2F to see their work and speak to them really made my day!”

“Meeting and conversing with these absolutely amazing and brilliant ladies behind the artwork was what made this event so unique for me,” said Mazhar Qureshi, an associate at DAI/USAID. “I was really inspired by seeing their confidence and how well they embody their artistic ideas.”

The two schools participating in the exhibition teach art as a weekly subject and cover diverse techniques, mediums and art history.

Advocating for art to be taught in all government schools, Sana Kazmi from Zindagi Trust shared that their reason for teaching art was to help students discover and hone their talents and to develop them into well-rounded citizens.

The exhibition will be up at T2F until May 17, noon to 10pm. Proceeds from the sale of the artworks will go to the students.