This issue of the TAASA Review marks the 70th anniversary of Pakistan’s creation in August 1947 and is the first art journal of its kind to examine its ancient, classical and contemporary art forms. As guest editors, we have aimed to do two things. Firstly, to include as many different art forms as possible: from contemporary miniature painting, to ceramics, performance art and re-examinations of historical architecture, textiles and petroglyphs. Secondly, we hope to highlight the many significant artistic and cultural connections, collaborations and cross-fertilisations between Pakistan and Australia – connections which are ongoing but may not be well known outside of an art cognoscenti.
Although a young nation, Pakistan is the inheritor of ancient and modern fault lines, both artistic and geo-strategic. This complexity, combined with more recent internal and external political tensions, has given rise to an efflorescence in both literature and the visual arts.
Mehreen Chida-Razvi examines Emperor Jahangir’s tomb in the city of Lahore, setting it within its architectural context and highlighting the important but often obscured influence of his wife and Queen, Nur Jahan, in the cenotaph’s design and construction. Taking the idea of a cenotaph, renowned artist and educator, Adeela Suleman, in her recently commissioned work for 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in Sydney, constructs a mesmerising curtain of metal birds to commemorate every death in Karachi whilst making the work. Mikala Tai, Director of the 4A Centre, explains that Suleman’s monument could not keep pace with the number of deaths occurring whilst she was creating the work, and that Suleman with other Pakistani artists are part of The Big Anxiety - a Sydney based project to enable Australians to experience the anxiety and fear of living with trauma and conflict.
Trauma is part of the creation of Pakistan, most obviously in the partition of the Punjab. Partition has often dominated and circumscribed much post-1947 art history scholarship. An examination of South Asia’s most recognisable embroidery – the Phulkari baghs of Punjab – uncovers this tendency and attempts to provide another perspective beyond a reductive Pakistan-India lens. Textiles – specifically, a magnificent embroidered tunic from Swat – provides the backdrop for In the Public Domain, where writer and independent researcher, Claudia Hyles, tells how she acquired the dress whilst living in Peshawar more than 20 years ago. The tunic forms part of her large and significant gift of South Asian textiles to the National Gallery of Australia.
Individual artists are at the heart of any cross-cultural exchange and conversation. Australia’s eminent and influential ceramic artist and educator, Merran Esson, has been quietly forging these ties for more than a decade. Esson has nurtured several young Pakistani contemporary artists, including Abdullah M.I Syed, whose performance-based artworks are included in this issue. Abdullah Syed’s own article is a thoughtful exploration of the concept of ‘poetic activism’ which imbues his own and other contemporary Pakistani artists’ works.
Esson’s article discusses the difficulties faced by traditional Pakistani potters and contrasts their work with that of a number of ceramicists working in Karachi and internationally, who use clay as a medium in their art practice.
An interview with the artist Khadim Ali gives an insight into his choice of subject matter as he draws on familiar narratives from his youth while exploring and expanding the miniature style of painting learnt as a student at the National College of Art in Lahore. His haunting, intensely beautiful painting is to be found on the cover of this issue.
Mountains have played a vital role in the history of the area and this is drawn out in Jason Neelis’ article on petroglyphs and inscriptions in northern Pakistan. A staggering figure of over 50,000 rock drawings and 5,000 inscriptions have been identified, reflecting the concerns and beliefs of the many peoples who traversed the area over countless centuries. One of the impressive petroglyphs illustrated is the Buddhist Shatial triptych, published relatively recently in the 1990s. Readers will gain further insight into this majestic area with Helen Holmes’ Travellers Choice article Searching for Shangri-la.
The current Pakistan High Commissioner to Australia, H.E. Naela Chohan, is a practising artist with a deep commitment to women’s issues. Her article traces influential artists and art institutions in Pakistan, setting the context for her own work. Melanie Eastburn’s book review of Turner and Webb’s Art and Human Rights: Contemporary Asian Contexts fits well with Chohan’s interests and indeed with the concerns of many of the contemporary artists represented in this issue.
We hope, in short, that this issue uncovers and exposes the beauty, complexity and contradictory nature of an often misunderstood country to a new audience.
3 EDITORIAL: ART OF PAKISTAN - Arjmand Aziz and Ann Proctor, Guest Editors
4 PHULKARI BAGHS OF THE PUNJAB: ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE - Arjmand Aziz
7 PAKISTANI CONTEMPORARY ART IN AUSTRALIA: A QUESTION OF REPRESENTATION - Mikala Tai
10 THE IMPERIAL MUGHAL MAUSOLEUM OF JAHANGIR: HOMAGE AND LEGACY - Mehreen Chida-Razvi
12 ENDANGERED SIGNPOSTS: UPPER INDUS PETROGLYPHS AND INSCRIPTIONS IN NORTHERN PAKISTAN - Jason Neelis
14 FROM SYDNEY TO HALA: A CERAMIC JOURNEY TO PAKISTAN - Merran Esson
16 MANZOOM MUZAHAMAT: NOTES ON POETIC ACTIVISM IN CONTEMPORARY PAKISTANI PERFORMANCE ART - Abdullah M. I. Syed
18 AN INTERVIEW WITH KHADIM ALI - Arjmand Aziz and Ann Proctor
20 WOMEN AND THE EMERGENCE OF MODERN ART IN PAKISTAN - Naela Chohan
22 IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN: AN EMBROIDERED KURTA FROM SWAT - Claudia Hyles
24 TRAVELLERS CHOICE: SEARCHING FOR SHANGRI-LA - Helen Holmes
25 BOOK REVIEW: ART AND HUMAN RIGHTS: CONTEMPORARY ASIAN CONTEXTS - Melanie Eastburn
26 RECENT TAASA ACTIVITIES
28 TAASA MEMBERS’ DIARY: SEPTEMBER - NOVEMBER 2017
29 WHAT’S ON: SEPTEMBER - NOVEMBER 2017