ISLAMABAD: The Line Green visual art space hosted the opening of a solo show by Khadijah Rehman, curated by Alina Akbar. With a unique blend of embroidery, gouache, digital media and ink, Khadijah’s work presents a luminous study of narratives focused on women’s identity.

Ms Akbar said: “As a curator, it is a fortunate opportunity to showcase artwork that centres around the enormity of womanhood, and to use our visual art space to educate people about the diversity of emotions and stories that bind women together.

“Khadijah explores how personal history, with internal and external influences, myth, memory and experiences converge in a female body. Khadijah’s work allows us to experience the magical, imaginative and surreal stillness of womanhood.”

Khadijah Rehman is a Lahore-based visual artist who works with both traditional and digital mediums of painting. Her colour palette is captivating, capturing the breadth of creation and creativity.

The skewed compositions and natural elements seek inspiration from Mughal and Persian miniatures, while the night has been used as the backdrop for scenes of personal introspection. Visual elements from memory and dream come together to create a patchwork of imagery, with the motifs of windows, screens and staircases acting as a visual device to create tangible layers within the works, as if every setting were a stage.

Like most dreams, oddities occur – strange birds, animals and flora make an appearance, as if magnified and made evermore eccentric by memory. Explorative and largely process-based, this series of works includes drawings, embroideries, and a meld of digital and traditional painting, where each work acknowledges some aspect of South Asian womanhood, and elements of love, longing, transformation and introspection remain at the forefront.

Khadijah spoke of the genesis of this body of work, saying: “I started with this series about three years ago. I got married then and most of the work features my mother-in-law. My father-in-law was an avid photographer who used to photograph her often, and my work has evolved from those photographs. I have gotten to know her as a young person, through the many phases of her life through those pictures.

“Now I see that, as women, there are so many threads that connect us. At 30, I am experiencing many of the things I see my mother-in-law living through in those photographs – youthfulness and the loss of that youthfulness. Going through those photographs, I got to connect with my mother-in-law in her youth.”

The collage-like effect of the work, overlays cultural symbols and flora and fauna on the figure of the woman inspired by Khadijah’s mother-in-law.

The work is a nod to mortality and the role women play in creation and nurturing the world around them, often at some cost to themselves. The women in Khadijah’s work are surrounded by playful animals, birds and flowers, giving constantly to nature and the world around them.

In Shaadi Mubarak, a young girl with a lion head-dress is playing some game but next to her sits a fortune-telling parrot on a bridal dupatta. “Fortune-tellers by the roadside use parrots to tell your fortune. In many ways, for a woman, the path is chosen for you. In other paintings, you see flowers and plants blooming around women. Women create something from nothing but in the process of creation and nurturing we lose something as well. And this is a cyclical existence,” she added.

Abdul Moeez, a student of industrial design, said: “The work is very interesting. If you look at the artworks, save one in which the woman is smiling, she has the same expression in all the works, one of ennui.”

Alina Behzaad said: “What struck me was how she has used animals frequently – being a pet lover, I liked that aspect.”

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2023

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