Sat, Apr 06, 2013 - Page 5 News List

FEATURE: Sectarian violence creeps into Pakistan’s art scene

Reuters, LAHORE, Pakistan

The piece is one of several haunting life-size sculptures by Baloch which feature people made blind and voiceless, which he says reflect brutality in his native Baluchistan, one of Pakistan’s most volatile provinces.

Baloch is from Nushki, a town not far from the provincial capital, Quetta, which has borne the brunt of violence against Shiite communities.

In addition, ethnic Baluch separatists are fighting a low-level insurgency. Rights groups accuse security forces of waging a campaign of abduction and murder to try to subdue them, charges authorities say are exaggerated.

“My inspiration comes from where I belong. Shiites are being killed, as are the ethnic Baluch. Religious hatred and racism is affecting the whole country, pitting people against each other,” Baloch said at Lahore’s NCA, from where he recently graduated.

In its dappled garden is No Fear, a statue Baloch says is a self-portrait. Made of fiberglass and fabric, a jeans-clad man with a satchel by his feet stands hooded and bowed, his hands tied behind his back.

“It’s about feeling unsafe,” he said.

Identity, or the lack of it, is the overriding theme for the January graduates of the NCA in Rawalpindi, a garrison city adjoining Islamabad.

Works at their final-year exhibit at Islamabad’s National Art Gallery include glaringly empty white boxes, a Pakistani twist on The Frog Prince fairy tale and faces in masks.

The “white noise” of increasing sectarian violence and “the cluttering of our minds with religious news” led graduate Schezre Syed to create The Blind Print, which contains 17 light boxes framing white watercolor sheets, all blank except for a date stamp of the years 2018 and 2019.

“Both sides in the Sunni-Shiite issue think they are right, and I took this as a perception of reality. When people look at this piece, they question what is real and what is not,” 23-year-old Syed said.

Her classmate, Benazir Hayat, produced a series of three-color self-portraits with her face obscured by masks: one is conical and Venetian, another white and translucent.

“We are not really safe in our own land and we all need a mask to hide our faces,” she said.

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