The Tightrope Dancer
My piece in TEHELKA magazine...
SCENES FROM Lollywood’s earliest raunch-fests play to a sex phone call in Urdu… Mustachioed heroes and plump heroines are preparing for what promises to be a very naughty time. This is an installation called Telephone Pyar by Adnan Malik showing at Islamabad’s prestigious National Gallery of Art, an institution run by the government in the high-security Presidential area.
At Lahore’s National College of Arts a unique miniature department gives new direction to the old subcontinental tradition. Many miniaturists from here have found recognition around the world. Among them is Mohammad Zeeshan, who has just returned from a residency programme in Weimar, Germany. Zeeshan’s new work takes a dig at the English alphabet using very graphic nudes.
Lahore’s famous Hira Mandi is also home to Cucoo’s Den, an art gallery and café run by Iqbal Husain. The son of a dancing girl, Husain is now a respected painter whose works are a keen document of the red light district. The rooftop café with its marble crucifix and grave slab centrepiece is a must-see for any visitor to Lahore.
The art community in Pakistan may be small, but it is thriving and trying to find a face and voice in these troubled times. It has not been an easy task, given the tightrope that ‘artistic freedom’ often means in Pakistan. But the environment also gives a certain muscle to art and creative transgression. These are not exactly halcyon days for the arts, but it’s hugely better than the ‘dark age’ of the Zia years where anything with a whiff of rebellion could be declared ‘un-Islamic’. That was the time when wearing sarees and watching films were also outlawed.
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