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Art binds Pakistan, Iran, Kashmir and Nepal in New Delhi

Havva (Eve in Islam) seek for justice in the illustrated pages which depict heroism of men Photograph: (Others)

Delhi, India Jul 19, 2017, 10.33 AM (IST) Raunak Sharma


For Waseem, Hitman, Veer, and Neda life has neither been fair nor secure. Torn away from their home either by war or natural calamity, they have sought refuge and found a voice in art. Recently, a local art gallery in Delhi showcased the work of these artists who hail from different parts of South Asia and the Middle East. The exhibition brought forth both the agony and the politics of the artists' creations.

Ruchita Gupta, the assistant organiser of these unique art exhibitions at Latitude 28 Art gallery, pointed out that the binding theme of these creative pieces is "the turmoil people face". These artists, after all, have fought for their identity, strove hard to earn recognition, faced community taboo in the process, and even had to take refuge in distant lands to protect their life and work. The appeal of their work, primarily, lay in the fact that the agony of life is closely braided with the aesthetic appeal of their artistic medium.

Saga of struggle in canvas

25th April 2015-the date will forever be etched in the memory of Hitman Gurung. On that day a terrifying earthquake destroyed significant parts of Nepal, killing 9000 people. 17 days later another earthquake struck Nepal again, this time killing 8,500 lives. Gurung, an artist from Nepal, was a witness to these terrible catastrophes that displaced 2.8 million people in Nepal with a population of approximately 29 million.  

Gurung's work that is on display in the exhibition portrays the brutal reality of the disaster.  'We are in (a) war without enemies' is the title of Gurung's work. The painting done with acrylic colours on a printed canvas size is as huge as the disaster itself.  

'We are in war without enemies' titled artwork depict the man who lost his home in the earthquake in Nepal (Others)


Taking a deep and intense look at the gigantic canvas, one will feel physically transported at the very sites and spots which were heavily destructed by the earthquake. As in the background, Hitman has used the originally captured photographs from the spots in the form of a collage which gives gloomy view of people in tears after they had lost their families, rescue team searching for survivors, homeless children in torn clothes, people running away from the places of filthy smell because of  decomposed bodies dumped under the debris. This man standing in the middle of the canvas, his face covered with bandages, holding a photograph of his lost home is itself enough to tell the entire story.

The title itself tells us how a natural disaster could cause a turmoil very similar to a bloody war between belligerent nations. 

Women's tale of woe continues

The condition of women in Iran is in continuous deterioration: they are not even allowed to watch men's sports at the stadiums. Recently, a woman was arrested when she tried to watch men's volleyball. For artist Neda Tavallaee, an artist born and raised in Iran, the situation was no better in the 1980s which saw a long and bloody war between Iraq and Iran. 

Tavallaee has experienced herself the critical condition of women in Iran. Living in a country where women are not even supposed to draw or paint, Neda found her interest in art. Eventually, she embraced art as her profession but to be able to do this, she had to put up a bitter struggle. 

When asked what art means to her, she says,"To me art is everything, it has been the only way to express my thoughts and feeling. Helping me heal in many ways." 

Havva (Eve in Islam) seek for justice in the illustrated pages which depict heroism of men (Others)


Last year models were arrested in their homeland for posting pictures of themselves and “promoting western promiscuity” without a headscarf on social networking site in Iran. 

Neda has come up with paintings which are inspired by the Persian poem 'Shahnameh' that was written 10 centuries back by the poet Ferdowsi. But while Shahnameh depicts the lives of kings and heroes as shining examples of courage and nobility, Neda puts Havva (Eve) at the center of her work. Neda shows Eve as a strong individual who had to solve all her problems by herself and seek for justice alone through her solitary search. While Neda loves to depict the forbidden stories of love, hate, and injustice in her works, her endeavour is to open a way for marginalised voices of the women.  

Last year, models were arrested in Iran for posting pictures of themselves. They were accused of “promoting western promiscuity” for posting pictures without a headscarf on social networking sites. Neda's response to this effort to put women under the wrap found expression in her canvas where Havva is either lying down or sitting on the floor; she is wrapped in chador, tight-lipped. If one looks fixedly at the cyanotypes, one could hear the scream of Havva in torment.

Neda has become, as she claims, a "storyteller". She tells the stories of the women who have shared their stories with her.  

My lost Paradise

Veer Munshi is an artist from Kashmir. Titled Relics from Lost paradise, Munshi's art work in the exhibition consists of quotes of famous intellectuals of the world that are written on small coffins containing human bones. The bones in the casket here belong to both victims and perpetrators. They are decorated in papier-mâché by Kashmiri craftsmen as a tribute.  Munshi's art recognises the sacrifice made by the conflicting parties but at the same time, his quest for peace continues. 

Relics from Lost paradise (Others)


Munshi consistently used his art to reflect his anguish at the situation in his home state, his pain and struggle spilling over onto his canvas. Making a human rights statement rather than a political one, he has constantly sought to highlight the turmoil that comes with his separation from his heritage. His art highlights the increasingly narrow space that exists for culture and art in his state. He desperately wants to retain Kashmir's rich heritage of craft and his sense of belonging to the region.

Pakistan based artist Waseem Ahmed has travelled the world, specifically the refugee camps of the Middle East and European countries. The lives of the refugees and the conflicts which have turned these people into refugees constitute the staple subject of his art. 

The refugees Waseem depicts in his work are shorn of their identity, with no money to survive, they are living a life far worse than of an animal. "These people do not even look poor and seem very established. But their cursed circumstances made them lose their identity, living without a passport in a strange country and begging on the roads", says Waseem. He also adds, "I have been to Jordan refugee camp where these refugees are living inside wired boundaries akin jail. They have time to go out of camp but to nearby places only between  6 AM to 7 pm. Same is in Berlin, where they get only 300 euros a month to survive."

The first image depicts the lost identity of the refugees and another showcase the attacked Mosque (Others)


In this drawing made by Waseem, the golden part depicts the map of rich and peaceful golden countries where refugees are considered to be as monsters. Blues are the silhouette of refugees with lost identity and the camps they live in. Where as the red spots and stains depict epidemic caused in the area.

Another art work from Waseem, titled as 'Karachi', raises an important question for those people who lump all Muslims as terrorists. Showcasing a mosque that had been destroyed by suicide bombing, Waseem points out "I have a question for the audience: if every body considers Muslims the terrorists then why would they bomb or attack important mosques and shrines and not the temples and churches?" 

It is a very harsh reality that these artists are trying to portray on canvas, In doing so, they are taking art beyond the canvas and merging it with life. A harsh life but nevertheless a real one.

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