ISLAMABAD: Marginality is a global issue that needs to be addressed by recognising the identity of individuals and communities and safeguarding the fundamental rights of marginalised segments of society.

This was the crux of the speeches made by Norwegian Ambassador Per Albert Ilsaas and painter Ahmer Farooq at the opening ceremony of the artist’s painting exhibition on Friday.

The show, titled ‘Archipelago of the Self’, was organised by the Embassy of Norway in collaboration with Tanzara Art Gallery.

“Ahmer Farooq’s captivating work explores the complex interplay between personal and societal forces, expertly navigating the multifaceted nature of the self,” the ambassador said.

Speaking to Dawn, Ambassador Ilsaas noted that marginality was a global phenomenon, existing even in Norway. He emphasised the importance of acknowledging diversity and supporting equal voice and space to marginalised individuals and communities to foster harmony in society. These are priorities for Norway in its foreign policy.

“This exhibition is a poignant reminder that everyone, regardless of their challenges, deserves to be recognised, heard, and valued for their unique identities,” the ambassador highlighted.

Mr Ilsaas praised the artwork, saying, “It touches upon the fragmented realities of marginalised individuals. I haven’t shared this with the artist before, but when I first saw his work about two years ago, it didn’t immediately captivate me. However, over time, it has grown on me considerably, and now I am a big fan.”

This exhibition serves as both a testament to the resilience of marginalised communities and a call to action for greater inclusivity and acceptance in our societies. It is a reminder that, despite the challenges they face, every individual deserves to be seen, heard, and valued for their unique identity, the ambassador said.

Noshi Qadir, the curator and owner of the gallery, invited the audience to embark on a journey of exploration into the intricate landscape of identity through Ahmer Farooq’s complicated work. Each brushstroke speaks to the emotional turmoil inherent in navigating a world where one’s identity is constantly scrutinised and judged, she went on to say.

Ms Qadir said: “Farooq, with his masterful brushstrokes and nuanced compositions, illuminates the fragmented realities experienced by marginalised individuals, providing a poignant reflection on the ongoing negotiation between public, private, and concealed aspects of the Self.”

The artwork invites viewers to contemplate the concept of interconnectedness and diversity within a larger setting. The title itself symbolises individuals in a grouping of islands, each distinct yet forming part of a unified whole, much like the diverse elements of society or the multifaceted aspects of human identity.

In his latest oeuvre of work, the artist draws viewers into the world of constant negotiation of the public, private, and secret spaces that marginalised individuals — women, religious minorities, transgender persons, ethnic minorities, queer individuals and the poor — must perform to remain safe and acceptable.

The titles chosen by the artist, using the prefix “un”, effectively describe the negation of identities, equal voice and spaces by religious minorities, ethnically marginalised groups, and socially oppressed communities, inviting viewers to confront and reflect upon the systemic inequalities embedded within society.

Each title poignantly encapsulates the marginalised status and experiences of these groups, rendering them ‘invisible’, ‘unrecognised,’ ‘unnoted,’ ‘unmatched’ and ‘unmarked’.

They underscore society’s apathy and lack of acknowledgement towards their identities, struggles, and existence, revealing the disparity in societal power dynamics.

These titles illuminate how the voices, experiences, and contributions of marginalised communities often remain unnoticed or deliberately disregarded. The painting ‘undisclosed’ emphasises the concealment surrounding their realities, silenced within mainstream discourse. ‘Unfamiliar’ speaks to the alienation and sense of otherness experienced by these groups, whose cultures, traditions, and identities are often viewed as strange or exotic.

The show will continue through June 6.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2024

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