The status of art in Pakistan is not one which befits its potential and vital role; art isn't an inane pursuit of vain aesthetics.It is an intellectual expression and an emotional reaction to the social , political, philosophical and theological spheres of our lives and hence provides a reflection of the times we live in.
There is an age-old debate, since Aristotle proposed his concept of mimesis, about whether art imitates life, or life art. Surely both are true. Accordingly, while our cultural roots have been revised in our textbooks, we have progressively been made to align ourselves more with the Middle Eastern way of life and religion, rather than with our own rich culture, emanating from this part of the region with its Sufi traditions so our understanding and acceptance of art has also been limited and distorted. Due to this mis-alignment,art has been disregarded and perceived as "un-Islamic ", with no importance at any level, be it educational, social, spiritual or philosophical.
It is often stated that a picture paints a thousand words, so those who wish to distort our history and culture are all too aware of the influence art can have. That is why we must take ownership of ourculture , of art, its depiction and its patronage in Pakistan. It is one of the strongest tools we have which can promote and protect the values, cultures and beliefs of the real Pakistan, not the Pakistan of the West or the Middle East.
Some would argue that art is by its very nature elitist and insular, but a vibrant and free art culture inspires the very opposite. However, in Pakistan there has been no public sector participation in the arts,due to which art has been relegated to the elite few. Awareness building and patronage by the public sector is essential for the growth and preservation of the arts. Only by opening up the art scene to the general public can interest be generated, from where it can proceed forward. It is for this reason that we hope that the Art Fest 2014, part of Sindh Festival, will herald the beginning of a change for the perception and portrayal of art in Pakistan.
The Art Fest is going to be open to the public from February 3rd to February 15th 2014, between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm daily at the Frere Hall. The location was chosen keeping in mind that it's both a public yet secure space, with surrounding gardens that are accessible and open to the general public, from all strata of society. Whilst it was built during the British colonial era, it was named after Sir Bartle Frere, who as the commissioner of Sindh issued a decree in 1851, making it compulsory to use Sindhi language in place of Persian in Sindh. It is appropriate as a venue therefore for the reassertion of culture.
We hope that by having it in a public space,the people have access to art that has hitherto remained confined to private homes and galleries. This is awareness building as well as a service to society,since art is the voice of the collective conscience of a nation. It should be heard and seen by all for the society to benefit fully from it.
During Art Fest 2014, two shows will take place simultaneously:
• The Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Collection: Comprising of works by the Modern Masters of Pakistan from Mohtarma's private collection.
• The Contemporary Art Section: Comprising of works of emerging and established cutting edge artists from rural and urban Sindh.
This show is unprecedented in the history of Sindh, in terms of the scale,magnitude and vision of the project. Throughout the course of the festival, there will be a spectacular variety of site specific works, performance artists, multi-media works and works portrayed in both 2D and 3D. It is the first real, major attempt by the establishment in Sindh to provide a diverse spectacle of art to vitalize and invigorate the public with a passion for a cornerstone of any mature nation's culture and society.
This cultural celebration though will also do some instant and direct practical good for the cause. Some works will be available for sale,part of the proceeds of which will go towards the Sindhu Heritage Fund. This was established with the aim of preserving, protecting and promoting our heritage. What greater way to protect our heritage is there than by asserting our traditional values through contemporary culture?
Moreover, the government is undertaking renovation work at Frere Hall, the ceiling of which was painted by one of Pakistan's top artists, Sadeqain (his work will be displayed as part of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto's collection).The local population will greatly benefit by restoration of this magnificent building and its beautifully manicured lawns.
Art is relevant. Art is useful. Art is vital. And it is time that art from Pakistan takes its rightful place in society.
We are thrilled to be taking one small step on the journey to realizing this with Art Fest 2014.
- Fazal Rizvi - Gasworks Residency Feedback Event 2014
- PROJECTIONS - A Tentative Collective's project in collaboration with Vasl Artists' Collective