Different strokes to unite people

Art Connect

Different strokes to unite people
India is something we have always imagined and standing here today I feel it is like modern Pakistan,” asserts Amna Ilyas, a contemporary artist from Pakistan, while explaining her artworks displayed as part of the exhibition ‘Colours of Hope’ at Azad Bhavan’s Art Gallery,  Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
 
The vacant gallery in the early hours of the day was illuminating with the bright faces of five women artists who have flown in from Pakistan, to exhibit their works personally. 

While Amna’s sculptures speak aloud of the feminist themes that she incorporates in her creations, her contemporary Fizza Saleem’s sculpture ‘Burnt Boats’, created from wood, paper and twigs, with messages inscribed on the boats, is quite intriguing.

Tthe miniature paintings by Ayesha Durrani reiterate the ‘feminist’ theme that ma­rks the display. 

“They are like my diary and document the experiences that I and other wo­­men have undergone ever since they moved out from the realms of being a ‘homemaker’,” explains Ayesha who is vis­iting India for the third time. 

She feels Delhi has changed a lot since her last visit in 2005 yet “people meet and greet us with the same war­m­th as they used to earlier.” 
 
Her companion Romessa Khan reiterates the belief: “When I asked a bangle-seller at Dilli Haat ‘Baji ye choodiyan pack kar dijiye’, she praised my gentle tone and promised to pray for me. This encounter made me feel so good.”  

For Mariam Hanif (another artist from Pakistan), “The rotis and paranthas here taste the same as they do in Lahore. But it is amazing to find so many vegetarian food options. The paneer tikka is delicious, we don’t get it there,” she says explicitly making it clear that Indian food will be a crucial element of her maiden trip to the country which shares common roots and heritage.

“When people met them, they did share the tales of their ancestors belonging to different places in Pakistan,” says Sonika Agarwal, an Indian artist and general secretary of Empowerment, the socio-cultural NGO that organised the exhibition. 
 
The art show also comprises works of four contempor­a­ry artists from India in an end­eavour to facilitate a pla­­­­t­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­form for cultural exch­ange. The mission was however, next to ‘impossible’, Sonika informs.

“We wanted to organise this exhibition in March last year but the strained relationship between the two countries affected and delayed it by an year. It was also difficult to find a gallery which would support us,” she says. 

But having overcome the hurdles and accomplished all that, the artist in her is quick to point out, “The subjects and their applications are quite contrasting in the artworks by Indian and Pakistani artists. The society, culture and religion influence the latter’s works and thus they make use of a lot of dots and lines since they are restricted to represent the female form.”

In this respect, the artworks by Ayesha are stunningly evocative and sculptures of Amna present an insight into the orthodoxies of the culture. 

Amna says, “My untitled sculpture of a book is inspired from the book of Bahishti-e-Zewar which is given to a newly-wed bride to follow all the rules penned in it. So I created my own book which is blank and I shall write my own rules in it!”  

As they prepare to bid farewell to their Indian counterparts, they take back memories of the splendid Taj Mahal, artworks at the National Gallery of Modern Art and the hospitality of Indians. 

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