EXHIBITION: RABIA’S ETHOS

Published November 20, 2022
Birthing a Balance (2022), Nurayah Sheikh Nabi
Birthing a Balance (2022), Nurayah Sheikh Nabi

The Chawkandi Art gallery recently paid homage to one of their own and one of the art world’s most respected artists and educators, Rabia Zuberi, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 81. Her printmaking students paid tribute to their teacher and based their artwork on some of the artist’s most well-known works. They focused on the motto set by Zuberi for her art school: Love, peace, tolerance, balance.

Zuberi, sometimes referred to as ‘Pakistan’s first woman sculptor’, studied sculpture in the 1960s at the Lucknow School of Art in India. Sometime in 1963 or 1964, Zuberi and her sister Hajra migrated to Pakistan to join their parents. She set up an informal art school out of her home, which later became the popular diploma-awarding Karachi School of Arts. Since moving to Pakistan, and until 2015, Rabia Zuberi produced many series of works that focused on stylised and semi-abstract anatomical forms.

The curator Romila Kareem’s If only they could shower us with flowers (2022) — unique print, collograph, chine-collé — is with silhouettes of fighter jets set against a blue sky, each jet carrying a red flower in its bosom. As a clear anti-war narrative, it is one of the pieces that decidedly stands out and really does come across as perfectly in line with Zuberi’s motto of love, peace, tolerance, balance.

Another stunning work of art is Hyunju Kim’s Rain (2022). As an artist who predominantly creates through etching and drawing, Kim is said to prefer exploring the unspeakable, the abstract, the mysterious, the unconscious, the ethereal and the spiritual. In Rain, she shows a group of people with differing heights and sizes, emerging from a field of leaves and flowers, each of their mouths stuffed with flowers. They are silent, yet beautiful. And perfectly at peace.

An exhibition by a group of printmakers pays tribute to sculptor and influential art educator Rabia Zuberi

In Ullat Phullat I (2021), artist Imran Ahmed etches a small bicycle on one vertical edge of a greying canvas and mirroring it is a small horse-and-carriage. Both work with the wheel and are modes of transportation, seemingly suspended in time.

In Ullat Phullat IV (2021) the top of the canvas shows an upside-down Pakistani flag and mirroring it at the bottom is a sign signifying a U-turn — back to Pakistan and so on. It’s an interesting concept that can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, especially in the socio-political context.

Rain (2022), Hyunju Kim
Rain (2022), Hyunju Kim

Nurayah Sheikh Nabi’s heavily-pregnant, androgynous figure, filled with beautiful, blooming flowers with little dandelion seeds flowing through and out of the stomach in a beautiful, ethereal manner in Birthing ABalance (2022) is another piece that stands out. Created by etching, chine-collé, woodcut pressure print, Birthing A Balance truly balances both the male and the feminine forms, merging them together into one until it creates something truly magical.

Walking through the space, you can tell that a lot of love went into curating and putting the exhibition together, with each artist contributing from their collection the art piece they felt represented Rabia Zuberi’s ethos the most. You can sense their love and through that you can sense her’s.

This was a befitting tribute to an artist that contributed to the artscape in Pakistan until her final breath.

‘Narratives of Peace, Love & Tolerance’ was exhibited at Chawkandi Art gallery, Karachi, from October 4-13, 2022

Published in Dawn, EOS, November 20th, 2022

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