Stories about art

South Asia’s forgotten art: Dastangoi

The good thing about the internet is what it does to distance. It can bring the flavour of your des or watan (land) right to your apartment in London. Whilst I was on one of my random internet strolls one day, I chanced upon a clip of a recent Dastangoi event organized in Delhi. For those of you who don’t know, Dastangoi was a form of storytelling practised in Delhi and the Urdu speaking areas of the Indo-Gangetic plains. The concept was pretty simple. In the olden days, when the idiot box was still not invented, a Dastango (storyteller) would recite the tales of Amir Hamza and Tilism-e-Hoshruba, whilst his audience ...

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The domino effect of terrorism

While the dictionary defines it as the “use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims there is no unanimous legal definition of ‘terrorism’ If it was up to me, I would define it as a continual dose of fear that creates uncertainty, distrust and melancholy. That melancholy triggers depression, which in turn gives birth to numerous psychological ailments. Recently, a noted psychiatrist from Peshawar, Dr Khalid Mufti, released a survey report, conducted under his supervision by an NGO called Horizon. According to the survey, 80 per cent of South and North Waziristan residents are suffering from mental illness while ...

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I read so you don’t have to: A week free of cliches

It is a truth universally understood that there is now only one sport in Pakistan. Sure, when the Olympics rolls around we suddenly recall that hockey is our national sport. But on the average day, Shahid Afridi’s latest shenanigans will always get top billing above whatever other sport we might happen to be excelling in. Let this be the week when our success in cards and the spirited display of our special Olympians changed all that. Let this also be the week that the rest of the world stops writing about Pakistan as if it were a cliché. Sure, there’s ...

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My art is not for you Prime Minister Gilani

My friend stood painting something abstract, holding a cigarette  in a manner that complimented her artistic persona. She probably noticed my sarcastic smile and said, ‘Hey Ammar! I know you criticize abstract art, but you see artists are free souls. We don’t believe in any rules, regulations and boundaries. We choose to be apolitical and are not disciplined folks at all. Discipline and art do not go along.” I remained silent looking at something black lying next to her bag. She continued, “What are you looking at? The graduation gown? That’s for the convocation dress rehearsal. Everything has to be ...

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Brighter futures: Kids, and their dream cars

The Dream Car Art Contest is an international event organised by Toyota for children to explore their imagination and design the car of the future. It is the only competition of its type held in Pakistan where children, as well as parents, can learn and realize that cars nowadays are designed by transportation, industrial and automotive designers, rather than engineers. The children, who took part in the 5th Dream Car Art Contest, might have been young, but they were also aware of problems around them. Most entries by Pakistani children revolved around solving their country’s problems. It made me proud ...

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The artist’s way

We live in an ugly world; there’s no doubt about that. For the past ten years we have been bombarded with images of terrorism, violence, destruction and death: on the television, in the newspapers and on the Internet. The most recent assault on our collective sensibilities and our battered sense of security is an image I just can’t get out of my head: Sarfaraz Shah begging for his life before being shot and left to bleed to death by the Rangers in Karachi this last week. As I said many months ago on Twitter, Pakistan is a nation in the ...

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MF Hussain: A barefoot artist

From London we have received the report of painter MF Hussain’s death. He had been an unwelcome man in the country of his birth ever since he painted some nudes representing certain Hindu deities. He had been a globetrotter of sorts for quite some time but when he left India this time the doors were firmly shut on his return. I am reminded here of Ghalib’s verse he used for the opening of his memoir: The blisters in my weary feet had starting bothering me, it’s nice therefore to notice that the path ahead is quite thorny. The barefoot painter had long ...

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Music = vulgarity?

Conservative elements have always spoken against music. I remember the introduction of music classes at Punjab University stirred up a storm among the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT). The IJT also threatened to “physically resist” music classes on campus. It was heart wrenching to see them marching hand in hand to condemn art. What would life be without music? It is a reminder of how things once were, an indication of how things are, and a view of where society is headed. Music is being successfully taught at some colleges including Kinnaird College, where I am one of the students studying Indian Classical Music. ...

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Promoting culture: Giving credit where it is due

Government agencies dealing with culture, creative arts, scholarship and other such intellectual matters may not have played the progressive role they were supposed to, or could have, even remaining within the strait jacket of their stated objectives, but overall they have been far more productive and active in their fields than other areas under government control whose performance has generally been quite dismal. Take for instance water, power, industry and agriculture. Their poor showing is responsible for our present troubles. In comparison cultural bodies dealing with arts like the Lok Virsa, National Language Authority (NLA), Pakistan Academy of Letters ...

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Khamosh Kalam: The psychology of a writer

Khamosh Kalam, a production of Laaltain – the IVS performing arts society – won the blue ribbon at the Youth Theatre Festival arranged by the Youth Affairs Ministry in collaboration with the Arts Council. The play is a mime that deals with the creative struggle of a writer as he crafts the perfect anecdote. I spoke with the scriptwriters and directors, Zehra Nawab (Foundation year student, IVS) and Arsal Hasan (Second year student, IVS) who discuss the challenges of theatre art in Pakistan. How did the idea for Khamosh Kalam come about? Khamosh Kalam was derived from a question that ...

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