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Performing out of the box

August 26, 2018

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She was born to a poet, to compose poetry, make art, create street performances, and have no other concept of life in mind. A versatile performance artist and director, Natasha Jozi was lucky to be raised in a house where reading, writing and freedom of expression were highly encouraged. Composing poetry and painting from a tender age, her first compilation of poetry was published when she was in her teens.

“On my first painting, my father gifted me a book about medieval art. Sitting besides me, he opened the book with a nude image on the third page. He was the first person to tell me, at the age of 11, that the nude figure is also a part of life; there is nothing unusual about it and you don’t have to be fixed or afraid of making any form of art. It was a watershed moment that set me free from restrictions, which hinder the creative expression and independent thinking,” she explains the conducive environment she grew up in.

She says she is grateful to Aasim Akhtar for introducing her to the fundamentals of art at Fatima Jinnah University.

“I felt myself lucky to be in a university where I had no sense of entitlement like students of established art institutions. It’s an institution with very limited resources and little faculty and very few practicing artists. I developed an understanding of seeking knowledge and learning on my own. It made me fearless and completely independent,” she explains.

During studies, she always felt uncomfortable in expressing herself on two-dimensional surfaces.

“I was not at all satisfied with a painting, so I ventured into installations. Getting an opportunity to study in the US on a Fulbright scholarship opened a new world of expression, the performance art, which became a lifetime romance,” she narrates. “I experienced it as a viewer and a performer. It was a new world that transformed me into a new being.”

She returned to Pakistan and shifted to Lahore with a goal to introduce performance arts and pass on the skills to young aspirants. She is teaching, conducting workshops and organising street performances, which is altogether a new phenomenon in the local art scene that was mainly limited to art galleries and indoor performances.

“Performance art is considered derogatory, even among the art community, which considers us not more than entertainers who come to spice up the opening receptions of art exhibitions. Most of the visual artists don’t regard it as a sole medium of expression,” Natasha laments.

Natasha Jozi
Natasha Jozi

The encouraging response to a two-month, ‘We are all mad here’, curated by Natasha at Pakistan National Council of Arts Islamabad, inspired her to establish the platform, House, last year. It is a team of writers, designers, photographers and performers who deliver performances in the Walled City and Lawrence Gardens.

“Performance arts is entirely different from street theatre where you are playing a character and imitating life. Unlike theatre, it is a real life interaction with strangers. Doing scripted, spontaneous and open-ended performance on the streets is vulnerable. The aura and energy created by the performer is an overpowering, meditative experience which cannot be explained in words,” she believes.

Contented and composed, Natasha is a rising star in the contemporary art scene of Pakistan. Her consistent efforts are gradually changing the common perceptions about performance arts among practicing artists and art lovers. Gifted with a mind which thinks out of the box, she is currently researching on the auras and energy fields created by humans.

“Auras are very real. All my social functioning is based on auras. I don’t engage with people, but with their auras. I always keep a check on my energy and my art practice is spiritual and scientific at the same time,” the artist concludes.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2018