Where do you come from?

Published November 19, 2011

There will be no frames. And nothing hanging.

And it seemed like the silence that followed appeared not only a bit thunderous but almost like sacrilegious words had been said.

An exhibit without frames is like doodh pati without the doodh. Or for the more quaint, Earl Grey without the drop of lemon.

In the next few days that followed, every so often there would be a quip for a 3D placement. One or two frames, or something that would make it seem like a real exhibit.

When one starts there are always all sorts of grand plans, like a tunnel of LCD's, floor stickers, and hanging gliders that resemble shapes which are subliminally making statements, and shiny paint that is reflective so the viewer can feel the immersive value.

The paragraph above denotes the words of someone who clearly spent a little too much time in art school, smelling dangerous fumes that we were told could be injurious to brain activity. One would reckon that it seems a bit extreme, but nothing in life prepares one for working with the printers, the construction folk and better yet the so-called sticker pasters who have the ability to make you want to do Native American death calls.

Anyone who knows the pain of working with such non-professional professionals knows and understands my pain. I can actually hear chinks of glasses across Pakistan right now.

The “State of Being So Divided” exhibit picks up from where the “Birth of Pakistan” ended, at Jinnah's funeral.

The “Birth of Pakistan” was in the majestic Mohatta Palace, however the space we had for “State of Being So Divided” was more compact and the format of story telling had to be adapted to a simplified, linear story to follow the clean lines of the architectural space.

It was important to break out from the conventional gallery treatment of spaces for the exhibit, because the elements in the archive demanded it. It would have been unfair to frame elements which needed to co-exist with other elements around it and the treatment of typography of the images needed to make a cohesive art form rather than individual pieces telling singular tales of existence.

The audio stations and video stations that live on either side of the gallery, are meant to create spaces where you can concentrate on the medium you are experiencing.

Throughout the exhibit there are photography, quotes, artifacts, audio stations and video stations.

The Oral History Project is the jugular of Citizens Archive Pakistan, we have over 1200 recorded interviews of people who have lived through the two partitions and other historical events. We've made these audio clips an integral part of the exhibit, as well as, videos which are made on the images given to us by people we interviewed.

Every few years is a visual timeline with pictures, videos and audio interviews of people who experienced that particular phase in the timeline. Also, the 1947 Partition Archive, a non-profit based from the USA collaborated with CAP and provided 4 video interviews with the Indian perspective of partition.

Leading up to the ‘65 war, are OHPs and videos made from the interviews of people who lived through it, fought through it, and/or just simply watched Pakistan unfurl. The haunting voices will give you goosebumps, while some eyes may well up when one hears these people speak of Pakistan and what we live through today.

The exhibit winds into the tail end of the 60’s and then into the 70's as Pakistan stands divided and the struggle for Independence begins on the Eastern flank of the nation. The cyclone, the actual wire photos from the Chicago Sun Tribune of the war, the refugees, and the after math. Never seen before documents are toward the end which display various exchanges of officials concerning the civic crisis in Pakistan.

An interesting feature of the exhibit is the convocation gown of the Dhaka Medical College which is made in Anarkali, Lahore, and the Jehaz planning book from the 50's. Inter-dispersed throughout the exhibit are reprints of the original advertisements of Pakistani goods.

View Dawn.com’s photo feature on the State of Being So Divided here.

The reason why we've done this at CAP, is because we feel history is often an oversight and a forgotten school subject.

We want history to be made memorable, to be made into an intuitive subject, where you should know everything about the country you call your own and take pride in. One can only have far-sighted vision and goals to change the world they live in if they know everything about where they come from. It's not about making history easy; it's about making you fall in love it.

And the story goes on. Without frames, and with out hanging things.

State of Being So Divided runs from Nov 2 - 24th at the Indus Valley Gallery at Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi. You can also take part in the CityFM89 contest for CAP goodies, for more information please visit our Facebook page, and CityFM89's.

Alia Chughtai is the Executive Director at Citizens Archive Pakistan and the co-curator of State of Being So Divided.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.



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