LAHORE: Literary texts, art, architecture, cuisine and even cosmology have always been entrenched in Lahore’s culture and ancient history. Its culture is diverse by dint of various means, including politics, trade and migration. That’s what is being explored by second edition of the Lahore Biennale (LB02) , launched on Jan 26 to continue until Feb 29.

This was also the first time the International Biennale Association (IBA) held its board consultation in Lahore.

Hoor Al Qasimi, the curator of the second edition, deserves credit for placing the installations and artworks and bringing to the forefront some of Lahore’s prominent structures and places.

“From a very young age, art and music were important in my family,” says Hoor, who is also the president and director of the Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF), in an exclusive interview with Dawn.

“I studied painting in London, and then I saw a life-changing exhibition in 2002 in Germany, which spoke of the Global South. It spoke about the things that I have been trying to speak of in this exhibition. I was really inspired by that and I thought this is what a biennial should be like,” she says.

In Sharjah, Hoor is known for creating beautiful spaces, especially in the old city shedding light on local artists.

Lahore Biennale is spread all over the city and its key points include Lahore Fort, Mubarak Haveli, Bradlaugh Hall, Punjab University (Old Campus), NCA, Lahore Museum, Tollinton Market, Punjab Irrigation Department, Pak Tea House, PIA Planetarium, Pilac, Alhamra Arts Council, and Gaddafi Stadium. Various artworks and installations by dozens of artists have been displayed at these historical sites.

“It is very important to highlight this history of Lahore,” Hoor adds.

“Lahore has a civilisation that is much older than Pakistan. The biennial is all about interconnected global connections, and we look for some kind of relation from the inside to the outside. For example, we have women musicians from Gilgit-Baltistan, which can be related to Central Asia or Balochistan can be related to the Gulf and Africa. In this way, we can introduce the people of Lahore to what their country really is.”

Hoor believes that making such connections is what can help strengthen Lahore’s relationships internationally and change the overall image of Pakistan.

“It will make a difference politically,” she asserts. “Internationally, for example, the people believe that Pakistan is not safe, but I can walk down the street and not be harassed. There is media stereotyping about Pakistan as well. But apart from that art itself is speaking politically – there are artists talking about different issues, give their perspective which has never before been heard before.”

She says she had found a lot of sites that she wanted to use and several artists she wanted to invite but could not for logistical reasons.

Academic Ali Nobil says the fact the exhibition is displayed at various key points on The Mall speaks volumes.

“This was a place in Lahore, which was the focus of colonial rule,” he says and adds, “The artworks displayed have opened conversations about various issues and themes. It is like subverting colonialism.”

Meanwhile, Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, who is also on the IBA Board, says she has been tremendously impressed by the way the biennale had been patronised by the authorities.

She lauds Hoor’s efforts for curating the biennale.

“The perspective that she has brought is about Lahore itself and its history. The location is in important historical sites such as the Fort but also in contemporary spaces such as the Pak Tea House and within the collections of history in the Lahore Museum, in places of education such as the NCA and the Punjab University, and even at the Irrigation Department,” says Jo-Anne.

Hoor has opened up spaces that are closed for foreigners as well as locals and combined contemporary perspectives with historical ones, adds Jo-Anne.

Jo-Anne says that all too often, many biennales all over the world are very preoccupied with ‘now’, and who can be the most exciting artist but this (Lahore Biennale) is a richer experience.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2020

Opinion

Editorial

IMF’s unease
Updated 24 May, 2024

IMF’s unease

It is clear that the next phase of economic stabilisation will be very tough for most of the population.
Belated recognition
24 May, 2024

Belated recognition

WITH Wednesday’s announcement by three European states that they intend to recognise Palestine as a state later...
App for GBV survivors
24 May, 2024

App for GBV survivors

GENDER-based violence is caught between two worlds: one sees it as a crime, the other as ‘convention’. The ...
Energy inflation
Updated 23 May, 2024

Energy inflation

The widening gap between the haves and have-nots is already tearing apart Pakistan’s social fabric.
Culture of violence
23 May, 2024

Culture of violence

WHILE political differences are part of the democratic process, there can be no justification for such disagreements...
Flooding threats
23 May, 2024

Flooding threats

WITH temperatures in GB and KP forecasted to be four to six degrees higher than normal this week, the threat of...