An Apology to Shaikh Ayaz

  • 31 Aug - 06 Sep, 2019
  • Eman Saleem
  • Art

The intensity with which “our history is getting lost” is being chanted over and over again is alarming. At book launches, art exhibitions and literary festivals, we keep talking about how we need to preserve our history and culture because it seems to be re-written by entities beyond our control, namely Hollywood and Bollywood, a fact highlighted by Khalil Chishtee. Mubarak Ali Shaikh, a legendary Sindhi poet, who we seem to lose to history was recently paid a homage to on canvas by 10 artists at Chawkandi Art Gallery in a group exhibition. It is often said by many artists that works of poetry legends serves as an inspiration to many of their works and the late Sindhi poet doesn’t cease to be an inspiration or subject to many till present day. Each artists showcasing a work of theirs as a tribute to Shaikh Ayaz, on different material and themes; the experience of a stroll through the gallery spelt diversity in themes and genres. Contributions for this exhibition came from artists based in Pakistan and scattered on foreign lands; Alia Bilgrami, Abdul Jabbar Gull, Abro Khuda Bux, Agha Jandan, Aqeel Solangi, Khalil Chishtee, Mohsen Keiany, Feica and Zohra Amarta Shah.

The medium Shaikh Ayaz used to bestow on us the gift of his poetry was Sindhi, a language many of us don’t understand despite the will to. This brings to light how there is so much inspiration out there in the world to paint on a canvas, or reflect these thoughts on paper in words but language acts as a barrier. Apologising for this, is Abdul Jabbar Gull. His contribution at the exhibition, oil on canvas of a blue and red cross of sorts with calligraphic content was an instant eye catcher.

Speaking to artist Zohra Shah, I ask what does she find herself painting most and why. “My interest and focus of work is on social issues in Pakistani society including child abuse, gender violence and human rights. There is a taboo against talking about child abuse and violence against women in our society. Public awareness eventually has an effect on societal norms and beliefs. My art work is a form of social protest, perhaps some prevention will occur from greater awareness. It is not only the right but the responsibility of the artists to present art that deals with important and sometimes controversial topics in our society.”

Looking around, art galleries always seem to be buzzing more than one would assume. Often the question how much respect we give art seems to cloud my fancy. I pose the question to exhibited artist Alia Bilgrami, of what she thinks about the art culture of Pakistan and where it is going. “The art scene in Pakistan is never disappointing, there are always new artists, new projects and new ways of thinking to look forward to. Of course more local funding for arts would really go a long way in expanding this even further. But despite all the constraints of living in a developing country I feel that we have really achieved a lot, with two biennales that are now permanently part of the local art calendar, art fairs, artists’ in residence programs, cross cultural dialogue coupled with well deserved international recognition for many of our talented artists, many of whom are quite young. All things considered, there is a lot of positivity in the art field where other things are lacking. So that’s something to continue to look forward to.”

It seems like there has been substantial dialogue about this resulting in a series of late and lost writers and poets to tribute and pay homage to by the artists of Pakistan. An excellent initiative taken by the gallery to remember our literary history as well as give artists a platform to come together and showcase their works; “I felt that each artist had their own unique way of dealing with the topic and that was very exciting to see. Since this is a series based project, I very much look forward to seeing how it evolves and am curious to know who the next great poet or writer will be”, adds Bilgrami.