x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Artists show Pakistan is 'not all about war'

A new exhibition at DIFC and NM Gallery in Dubai by 15 Pakistani artists attempts to challenge stereotypes of women from that country.

Dubai, UAE, December 4 2012: 

MAgical Narratives, an exhibit featuring work from emerging and established Pakistani artists, premiered tonight at DIFC. The exhibit was held in a make shift open air space sponsored by NM Gallery. 

Seen here is emerging Pakistani artist Maimoona Riaz.

Lee Hoagland/The National
Dubai, UAE, December 4 2012: MAgical Narratives, an exhibit featuring work from emerging and established Pakistani artists, premiered tonight at DIFC. The exhibit was held in a make shift open air space sponsored by NM Gallery. Seen here is emerging Pakistani artist Maimoona Riaz. Lee Hoagland/The National

The launch of the Magical Narratives art exhibition in DIFC presents work by 15 Pakistani artists, some of whom are showing internationally for the first time. Maey El Shoush reports

Even before the outdoor exhibition had completed setting up at Gate 8 at DIFC on Tuesday, five of the 45 pieces in Magical Narratives had already been sold to passers-by.

The works are inspired by miniature painting, one of the distinctive forms of Islamic art, alongside calligraphy and illumination, and the exhibition will move tomorrow to NM Art Gallery in Dubai, where it will run until January 15.

Many of the pieces are concerned with social injustice, personal struggles and fighting stereotypes of Pakistani women, who make up 14 out of the 15 artists in the show. Most are also graduates of or are working at the National College of Arts, Lahore and Rawalpindi.

Maimoona Riaz is one such artist. After graduating from the college, she began work as assistant curator at Satrang Gallery in Islamabad. She describes her pieces as exploring the invasion of one's personal space by society and even those closest to us.

"The small house represents this idea of personal space and how you keep doing what you can do to keep it. You may get disturbed, but you find a way of dealing with it," says the 25-year-old. "Art is not just for me. It's my interpretation of what others are also going through, so it is not just about my own thoughts."

"Art is not only pleasing to the eye but it expresses how you feel. It can be an escape from the mayhem around and a way of fighting oppression. We want to constantly promote Pakistan because it is not all about war," says Nyla Qayoom Noorani, who cofounded NM Art Gallery with Maliha Bhutto Rahimtoola. "There is so much art there which is also affordable. Many pieces have also been sold in places such as Christie's."

For the 36-year-old artist Mehrbano Khattak, art is also about pushing for freedom. Her piece Fragment, for instance, deals with how people can at times feel they are under the microscope.

"It is like everyone is looking at you and analysing because that's sometimes how we feel in society," she says. "It can be difficult because some do not take what we do seriously. However, you have to push for what you believe."

Her hope is to inspire others with similar passions, by showing art need not be seen as taboo.

melshoush@thenational.ae