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Looking at South Asia through art

Staff Reporter
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Eventful journey:Shahidul Alam, photographer, and human rights activist, delivering a talk at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Bangalore.— Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.
Eventful journey:Shahidul Alam, photographer, and human rights activist, delivering a talk at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Bangalore.— Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.

A South Asian evening, as it was called, saw artists from Bangladesh and Pakistan share their views on a wide range of issues, providing insights into the culture and politics of our neighbouring nations.

Salima Hashmi, a Pakistani painter, and Shahidul Alam, a celebrated photographer from Bangladesh, shared their journey and experiences with the audience at the packed auditorium of National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), recently.

As she spoke on ‘Sanctuary and defiance: contemporary art from Pakistan’, Ms. Hashmi, also a writer, artist and anti-nuclear activist, took the audience through a journey of Lahore as it finds expression in her students and colleagues at Beacon House National University.

Interspersed with anecdotes, Ms. Hashmi presented a series of paintings. Explaining an iconic work of art titled ‘Rana’s red carpet’, she said it presented the complex culture of Lahore. While it looks like a lovely traditional carpet from a distance, a closer look would reveal that it is made up of fragments of pictures taken at a slaughter house in Lahore.

“Though artists cannot change the world, they can, through their work, give flight to imagination and they can give you the direction,” said Ms. Hashmi, daughter of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, one of Pakistan’s most renowned poets. She ended her presentation with the rendering of the late Faiz’s famous Punjabi song, Rabba Sachiya sung by Tina Sani.

The famed photographer from Dhaka, Shahidul Alam, spoke on ‘My journey as a witness’, reflecting the socio-political happenings in Bangladesh through his photographs, some of which were taken during Bangladesh floods and military insurgency.

He presented some striking pictures of former women Maoists.

He described how his widely acclaimed recent exhibition, ‘Crossfire’, curated by Peruvian curator Jorge Villacorta, was closed down by the police leading to nationwide protests. He described how they had used multi-media as a subversive tool and reach beyond the country’s borders.

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