Art show for public awareness

September 30, 2010

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KARACHI, Sept 29: Art connoisseurs and the general public visited the Art for Change exhibition at the Pakistan Railways Diesel Workshop/Shed on Wednesday afternoon. Nine artists took part in the event organised by the Dhaba Art Movement to create art awareness in Pakistan.

It was a unique sight seeing paintings hung on a wall smack opposite the railway workshop where usually one sees chalking and graffiti of many kinds. Schoolchildren and people belonging to different spheres of life passing through the rather wide uncarpeted road stopped by, though not in big numbers, to see what the display was all about.

One of the artists who had exhibited his work, Abdullah Qamar, said, “We are trying to raise awareness among the masses about art. Our first aim is to create 'acceptance' of art because we feel 'acceptance' is a major issue in our society. Art teaches people to ask questions, to become inquisitive. People have stopped thinking, which is one of the reasons for the many socio-political upheavals that we witness all around us.”

While the idea of taking art to grassroots level was a good one, it was baffling to see that some of the pieces on display were a tad difficult for the general public to appreciate or acknowledge. On the other hand S.M. Raza's figurative work (one piece was drawn then and there when this writer had reached the venue) made some passersby interpret it in their own distinct ways. A schoolboy (class IV) said, “I think the picture is about a man who has murdered someone and he is being punished for committing such a bad crime.”

Most of the pieces at the exhibition highlighted the issue of the political turmoil that Pakistan has been faced with for many years. There were miniature pieces, photographs and acrylic-on-canvas paintings… all sorts of stuff primarily focused on what the country should have been and what it had become.

Mir Askari's work was about a dawn of peace and prosperity that the country is yet to experience. The artist, along with Abdullah Qamar and S.M. Raza, looked exceedingly contented for exhibiting their work not at an art gallery but at a public place so that their message could reach a wider audience.

Perhaps their mission did start bearing fruit when a nine-year-old schoolgirl Zara, endorsed by a middle-aged onlooker, construed a semi-abstract work as depicting the division of India and Pakistan, something that amused the painter who had made it himself.

The participating artists were: Abdullah Qamar, Khalifa Shuja, Malik Sophia Mairaj, Mir Askari, Monazza Fatima Naqvi, Naveed Iqba, Nobia, Sana Burney and S.M. Raza.