Vasl host Araam: Breathing space

In collaboration with Shista: Brea, UK

Halima Casell at Indus Valley School for Art & Architecture,

Karachi: 1 April – 15 April 2009

National College of Arts, Lahore: 15 April - 12 May 2009

Exhibition: 27 June - 15 August 2009


Araam is a unique partnership project initiated by Shisha, the international agency for contemporary South Asian crafts and visual arts in partnership with Mid Pennine Arts. The first of its kind and building on cultural links between the North West of England and Pakistan, the project will initially highlight the work of two exciting, contemporary UK artists, Halima Cassell and Zarah Hussain, through residencies in Pakistan and the UK and a unique exhibition at Mid Pennine Gallery in Burnley.

Araam has been developed to enable “breathing space” for the artists to research, develop new ideas and experiment with creative disciplines. During this process, both Cassell and Hussain will be exploring their Pakistani roots, issues around identity and pushing boundaries in their creative practices. Cassell and Hussain use very different artistic mediums, but both are inspired by their ancestral heritage and Islamic influences through pattern and architecture resonate in their work.

As an ongoing project, Araam has been developed through a number of phases. There was an initial research and development visit to Art Schools, museums galleries and cultural centres in the Pakistani cities of Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi early this year undertaken by Halima Cassell, Shisha’s Deputy Director Fareda Khan and Mid Pennine Arts Director Nick Hunt.

The three-city tour had several aims. As well as a brief introduction to Pakistan’s vibrant traditional and contemporary visual art and craft scene, the visit galvanised existing links and formed partnerships between Shisha and two international art schools and a dynamic artist collective to establish the artist residency programme for Halima Cassell. In addition, the purpose was to work closely with the art schools’ ambition to connect students with international makers/artists. Mid Pennine Arts forged friendship links to support an exchange programme between Pakistan and local schools.

Ceramic artist Cassell is currently in Pakistan for the second stage of the project, which is a split-site residency in partnership starting with the prestigious academic institution as well as a highly renowned artist collective namely, Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, and VASL Karachi respectively. The second location is the internationally acclaimed National College of Arts, Lahore; Cassell will also work with students at Beacon House University, Lahore. Cassell will spend her time in Pakistan researching, developing ideas and exploring new artistic and local craft techniques and methodologies, which are specific to different regions. Hussain will be involved in a residency programme at Mid Pennine Arts.

Work in progress inspired by the artists’ creative explorations will feature in the Araam: Breathing Space exhibition at Mid Pennine Gallery, Burnley from 27 June to 15 August 2009. The exhibition will showcase the artists’ developmental work and will provide an opportunity to document the innovative, intercultural and experimental component of the Araam project. Both artists will participate in the artist residency programme at the Mid Pennine Art Gallery.


Further Information

Halima Cassell has traditionally worked in clay, fusing together her Asian roots with western, African pattern and architectural geometry. She chooses to celebrate each of these elements in their own right and from this, she is able to create a new and unique style, which absorbs and addresses the rich diversity. Her pieces utilise lines and angles, capturing the universal language of pattern, number and form. Her recent work involves working with different forms of media such as stone and wood as well exploring new spaces in an urban architectural environment, which has always been one of the elements of her inspiration.


Further Information on Halima Cassell can be found at


Zara Hussain

Zara Hussain explores the use of geometric form and pattern inspired by the Islamic art tradition. In the past, her work has taken the form of both paintings and technologically advanced light installations. Her recent work operates on several different levels, devotional beauty through repetition and pattern, an esoteric or Sufi understanding of the Muslim faith in modern times, and a look at the ‘trueness’ and purity of number in an age where spiritual ideas are confused and there is no longer any belief in anything absolute.


Further Information on Zarah Hussain can be found at



Shisha is the UK‘s premier international agency for contemporary South Asian crafts and visual arts. Established in 2001 and based in Manchester, Shisha is at the vanguard of creative practice; programming landmark projects that have pushed boundaries, opened up critical dialogue and challenged perceptions in current artistic, cultural and socio-political discourses. Shisha supports artists and curators of South Asian descent through partnerships, which include, programming exhibitions, residencies and educational projects, producing publications and providing professional development and consultancy services.


Further Information on Shisha can be found at


Mid Pennine Arts

Mid Pennine Arts is the arts development agency for the Pennine Lancashire area. MPA combines a community base and a partnership ethos with a strong track record of innovative, high quality projects. The Mid Pennine Gallery regularly features culturally diverse work, and work intended to engage those communities. MPA is particularly keen to establish long-term partnerships with agencies in Pakistan that can continue to enrich cultural life in Lancashire.


For more information and images contact:

Helen Russell on 01282 421986 or (Mon-Wed)

Araam: Breathing Space is a partnership project between Mid Pennine Arts and Shisha, the International Agency for Contemporary Asian Crafts and Visual Arts, based in Manchester.



Mid Pennine Gallery can be found on Yorke Street (off Manchester Road), Burnley, BB11 1HD. Opening times are Wednesday to Saturday, 10am-4pm. Admission is free and there is wheelchair/pushchair access. For more information call 01282 421986 or visit


Supported by:


Indus Valley School of Art and Architecure

Arts Council England




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