• 24 Mar - 30 Mar, 2018
  • Marjorie Husain
  • Art

In coordination with the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund and Pakistan’s Craft Council, an unusual exhibition of traditional arts and crafts was curated by Noor Jehan Bilgrami and Zarmeene Shah recently and shown at the KOEL Gallery. The exhibition titled: MANZIL was described as:

An exhibition of traditional crafts and contemporary adaptations.

On display throughout the gallery, one discovered a fascinating display of articles that spoke of the gifted arts and craftsmen of history and of present times, displaying items that one rarely has the opportunity to examine in the city.

One recalls a visit to the University of Baluchistan some years ago, where Mehergarh was discovered as the first area of settlers. Sadly, precious historic excavations were removed from the area where as yet, no museum exists. In answer to this problem, Akram Dost Baloch, one of the founders of the University, had taken a large hall of the spacious Art College, and made it into a historic site for numerous arts and crafts of the region.

In show at Koel, a section titled `Farasi Weaving (Shaal Dochi)’ detailed the way of life of the women who create the embroidery and patterns from materials acquired from sheep, goats and camels, and the men who travel in varied seasons often wearing the shawls while looking for greener pastures for the herds. An article explaining the work also related: “Today, the examples of this authentic/original craft practice have become extremely rare and are hard to find…”

Beautiful Jewellery (Kundan Zewar) was contributed and explained by Amber Sami and Siddique Khokhar: “The craft of Kundan is the oldest technique of jewellery-making in the Indian subcontinent, and its experts (those specialising in this art) mostly come from Pakistan, specifically from the Bahawalpur area.”

Contributing the jewellery for the show, the designer drew the patterns blending a modern design technology with “creative adaptations of iconic symbols in South Asian Culture…”

Copper-ware (Misgari) was shown by Arshed Faruqi and Mohammad Naseem. Quite a group was gathered around the delightful copper bowls, all beautifully decorative, and in modern times using techniques such as etching and photo etching, laser cutting and dry point. These delightful pieces were much admired by the viewers. One young women related that water left overnight in the copper bowl and drank in the morning was a traditional health aid, that certainly enhanced the interest.

From the Coalescence Design Studio of Zahid and Taj Mehmood came the `LATHE’ wooden seats dating back in time to 1300 BC. It was explained that “the wood for each piece is carefully picked, joined and spun on a lathe machine to give its distinctive form, creating a contemporary product rooted in tradition…”

Another fascinating artwork was that of Stone Inlay (Parchin Kaari), Pietra Dura. It relates to ancient Roman times, finding its revival in the times of the Italian Renaissance of the 16th Century. The art spread to Russia, Iran and the South Asian Region into Afghanistan and India under the patronage of the Mughals.

One was enchanted by the beautiful calligraphy contributed by Shah Abdullah Alamee. He explained that the Siyah Mashq or ‘black practice’ is a style of Persian calligraphy that was originally used by calligraphers many years ago in Iran. Students of calligraphy would write and rewrite words over each other and in doing so, would fill up an entire sheet of paper.” The artist had used his own exquisite style in the past, writing the poetry of Iqbal, Rumi and Bedil. In the exhibition at Koel, Alamee had created a large and stunning version of a poem by Rumi, that one would like to remain on that wall.

Stone carving is the famous feature of the world’s greatest necropolis, Makli. We were informed that it is a legacy of the Greeks, and the majority of tombs in Makli and Chawkandi are believed to be the work of Baloch tribes between the 15th and 19th centuries. It was interesting to learn that history is inspiring, as recently, a large scale stone panel was introduced to the new Islamabad airport.

Also displayed was beautiful traditional embroidery (Pulkari) where Rano Usman discovered, Parveen Akhtar, Gul Jabeen, and Sidra Akhtar, the skilled women whose embroidered art was taught to them by their elders, in a tradition of one generation to another.

Altogether a fascinating display of artworks and objects, one examined many objects with great interest. On display were camel skin lamps, leather embroidery, and painting on wood, ancient arts that deserve to be in museums. The present generations deserve to enjoy their inherited arts and the history that is so often overlooked. •