Visitors pose for a photograph with the stone portrait of slain activist Karima Baloch | Photos by Faraz Naseem
Visitors pose for a photograph with the stone portrait of slain activist Karima Baloch | Photos by Faraz Naseem

Balochistan is home to talent in many unusual fields, with some practising arts not seen in other parts of the country, such as sand art. After beach artists showcased their skills in Gwadar at a beach-sketching competition in 2019, a group of stone artists has emerged in Washuk district.

Naseem Arts Washuk, run by Faraz Naseem, 23, has grabbed the attention of the entire region with two portraits of Baloch personalities: the late musician Noor Khan Bizenjo and activist Karima Baloch.

“When we began, we did not think we would get this much love and support,” Naseem tells Eos. Professionally a Levies constable, Naseem has always had a keen interest in drawing from his school days. In school, he was the top student in his drawing class and a favourite of his art teachers. However, a lack of awareness about fine arts as a field of study, followed by financial instability, led to him joining the Levies Department as a constable.

“After my matriculation from Washuk and Bachelors from Panjgur, I wanted to continue my education, but I had to make an income to manage my family as well,” he adds. He goes on to tell me his friends did push him to pursue higher education, but he felt he could not carry that burden and joined the Levies.

“That did not stop my thirst towards arts though,” he says. “In my free time, I worked on pencil sketches, but I wanted to explore more techniques in drawing.” Inspired by the sand portraits done by beach artists in Gadani, he decided to use what he did have plentiful access to in Washuk: stones. This led him to create stone art.

Unable to pursue a degree in arts, a young Levies constable from Washuk takes up stones as his medium of expression

“I formed a team, comprising a drone cameraman and stone collectors,” he says. He approached his friend and photographer Sajan Baloch, who had a drone camera and was eager to participate. They asked friends and family members to help them collect stones and embarked on creating portraits. Naseem creates the portraits while Sajan photographs the process.

Noor Khan Bijzenjo’s portrait in stone
Noor Khan Bijzenjo’s portrait in stone

“When Naseem approached me with the idea, I agreed because we have been good friends from childhood,” says Sajan, 24, adding that he was initially sceptical that the idea would work. The moment he captured the portraits from the sky, however, he knew they had done something no one had ever imagined in the entire Washuk district, maybe even Balochistan.

It took them four days to complete their first portrait of the Baloch singer Bizenjo on July 21, as they would travel a distance from their hometown to the site they had chosen for the installation. Naseem was also on duty as a Levies constable, so could only work on the art during his spare time. They would also often have to rearrange pieces when they returned to the site, but four days of continuous work brought them the attention they hadn’t imagined.

“The then Deputy Commissioner of Washuk, Sajjad Aslam Baloch, himself came, encouraged us and awarded us 20,000 rupees,” says Naseem. Two other well-to-do locals in Washuk and Mashkel also gave them 20,000 and 10,000 rupees for their efforts. This has enabled them to buy basic equipment and continue their work.

He says people have also appreciated their choice of portraits.

“We chose those figures who have contributed to the societal development of the Baloch people,” Naseem says. Bizenjo, who died in 2003, is still as popular as he was in his lifetime, while the activist Karima Baloch is remembered as a strong female political activist who was ‘martyred’ in Canada on December 21, 2020.

The group plan to create one stone art portrait a month and have a list of names in the pipeline. Naseem has also returned to pencil art and sketches every day, a skill he says helps him in his stone art portraits. But fans will have to wait to see whose stone art portrait they will create next.

The writer studies Law at University Law College Quetta. He can be reached at alijanmaqsood17@gmail.com and
X: @Alijanmaqsood12

Published in Dawn, EOS, September 17th, 2023

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