Saying it through art

Professor Salima Hashmi is set to exhibit her artwork at the upcoming Art Dubai Fair

By Layla Haroon, (Contributor)

Published: Tue 18 Mar 2008, 12:21 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:30 PM

The Daughter of legendary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz and the British-born respected journalist and peace activist Alys Faiz, Salima’s aesthetical values and literature are the two weapons she takes over to transmit her voice for women empowerment in the highly patriarchal society.

The artist’s artwork focuses and - in a way - bewilders the evident yet unobvious suffering of women that existed in Pakistan’s history under the rule of General Zia Ul Haq and still resides in society today.

Currently, Salima is focused on mentoring and promoting the works of younger artists. She runs her own art gallery featuring works of young artists and curates art exhibitions showcasing their works both in Pakistan and abroad.

At the upcoming Art Dubai fair in Dubai, she will curate the cutting edge contemporary artworks of 11 artists under the exhibition entitled ‘Desperately Seeking Paradise’. She tells City Times more about her interests in art.

How do you characterise your father’s aptitude in literature?

I was about eight years old when Faiz Ahmed Faiz was imprisoned for his political views. I well remember visiting him in jail. Later, during the General Zia Ul Haq rule, he had to go into self-exile as a result of the harassment he faced by the government. It is an awful thing to say but Faiz’s imprisonment and exile brought forth his greatest poetry. Suffering, oppression, struggle gives the painter or writer their greatest most universal themes. Human beings are resilient. In traumatic times the creative voice becomes the voice of all people.

How do you think the painter in you developed in such a politically charged atmosphere?

Zia’s regime gave birth to the women’s movement to social struggle, inspiring art and literature. I learnt a great deal in those years and painted a great deal. It became my outlet. Oppression has to be countered somehow.

What inspires your artwork?

My major motivations have been socio-political - But also emotional. My own art has evolved over the years of Pakistani social history - but I have given most of my creative energy to teaching. My students have been the love of my life, and my art has been in that shadow. I paint, when I get time, with great passion.

What are the objectives laid behind the Pakistani arts exhibits at the Art Dubai fair?

The aim of the show ‘Desperately Seeking Paradise’ is to give a wider audience a taste of cutting edge Pakistani Art in 2008.

‘Group’ may be a misnomer, since the divergences in their practices contradict the convenience of ‘branding’, except in the form of a green travel document. Their work bristles with intrinsic dissimilarities, and distinct pathways.

How do you define the contemporary Pakistani art?

The show does not claim to be completely representative of what is happening in Pakistani contemporary art today, but it does give one an insight into the diversity of art practice. That is precisely what defines contemporary art in Pakistan - a diverse, lively art practice.

In what ways does the title of the exhibition ‘Desperately Seeking Paradise’ relates to the works set to be presented?

The title ‘Desperately Seeking Paradise’ was inspired from the book by Pakistani intellectual and philosopher Ziauddin Sardar. The book is a wonderful exploration of the travails of a ‘Muslim sceptic’ in our world.

Art is being acknowledged more as a commodity of decoration for business houses or as an icon of status. Comment.

Art has always had a ‘commercial’ side. Patronage came from temples, churches, kings and aristocracy in the past. Today is no different. The artist has to walk the tight rope between the ‘truth’ and the ‘market place’.

Does the political mayhem in Pakistan speak in your art?

One is still reeling from our political situation today. Yes, it will be assimilated in my work.

Tell us something about your current projects?

I am co-editing a book on the Pakistani miniature and also preparing for a solo exhibition this year. The art is drawn from experiences of the last four years. It will coincide with the launch of a book of Faiz’s translations by Shoaib Hashmi.

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