Thu, Aug 30, 2007 - Page 15 News List

Pakistan's National Art Gallery opens for business

The gallery is aimed at promoting a more progressive image of the extremism-hit South Asian nation, where the cultural scene in the visual arts has often been overshadowed

AP, ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

There are outdoor shopping centers, parks and the impressive Lok Virsa ethnographic museum, but few places to see art or theater - long seen as the arena of Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan.

The gallery and artwork on show are indicative of how secular and liberal Pakistan's growing middle-class has become, despite the conservative influence of the religious establishment.

Musharraf, burnishing his credentials as a moderate in the midst of a bumpy re-election drive, spoke at a weekend opening event for the gallery of the need "to project a soft, peaceful and tolerant image of Pakistan.''

The Ministry of Culture had promised there will be no censorship, said Salima Hashmi, one of the curators and a Lahore-based art historian. They were told to exercise their own judgment so as not to offend anyone.

Showing figurative work or nudes "would be a problem in certain venues in Pakistan that are more conservative - Peshawar, for example,'' near the Afghan border, Hashmi said.

"As in many countries, you have audiences which will accept work which seems to be pushing the boundaries, and there will be other conservative audiences that will simply not accept it.''

On the Net: For the Pakistan National Council of the Arts, visit pnca.com.pk/

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