Perspective

What is Pakistani art?

Updated Jun 23, 2016 01:19pm

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Illustration by Zehra Nawab
Illustration by Zehra Nawab

When a mustachioed generalissimo, on the brink of conquering his own land and changing forever the destiny of all those who dwell therein, humbly addresses his friend and fellow officer with the poetic plea: “Murshid, marwa na daina"... that is Pakistani art.

When the same glorious knight, destined by the gods to bring salvation to his blighted land, engages in a pas de deux with the chief justice of the country’s highest court and arranges a verdict that will affect generations to come… that is Pakistani art.

When the greatest performance piece ever performed (by a piece) doesn’t just confine itself to one’s own political geography but includes painting its sophomoric ambitions across the canvas of boundaries and time zones … that is Pakistani art.

When the ka-ching of a corner plot is more moving than the notes of a soulful sitar rendition by Ustad Rais Khan … that is Pakistani art.

When the stark surrealism of an Auchinleck is brought to life by a corps of Rommels redecorating the corridors of power in thick, lively brush strokes of Hint-of-Constitutional-Amendment … that is Pakistani art.

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When the strategic depths of vainglorious martial artists spill over into the neighborhood, embedded with WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot routines that boomerang with the frequency of corruption scandals … that is Pakistani art.

When every radeef and iambic pentameter extols the glory that (golf) courses through the veins of divinely-ordained gated communities built on non-existent goths … that is Pakistani art.

When you are Herodotus, Chanakya, Metternich, Machiavelli and de Tocqueville combined, charting course after course on behalf of your benighted nation, ever-fragrant in the martial arrogance of your humility … that is Pakistani art.

When – for the sake of your own well-being – every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, they’ll be watching you. For as a wise Sting once asked: "Oh can’t you see you belong to them? And how their poor hearts ache, with every step you take". That ache, that constant lyrical yearning to see you cozily ensconced in a Defence Housing Authority phase (or at least Lahore Fort) … that is Pakistani art.

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When you are neck deep in so much talent, mashallah, that no man-made vocation or field of endeavor (other than your own) can confine your creativity, be it in real estate or the production of fertiliser or the manufacture of cornflakes or the running of financial institutions or the making of action-packed blockbuster movies, alhamdulillah … that is Pakistani art.

When a helpless old soul undertakes one of the longest journeys (in the region’s history) on foot and walks all the way from Quetta to Islamabad and back with none hearing or seeing him tread past … that is Pakistani art.

When the conceptual art you’re renowned for around the world becomes so highbrow that even you can’t differentiate between the good twin and the bad twin you’ve engaged to perform your repertoire … that sublime sensation is Pakistani art.


The writer is a Pakistani artist.

He tweets @faridalvie