A good introduction
Guilty by religion
By Waqar Gillani
Raashid Emanuel and Sajid Emanuel, two blasphemy accused brothers living in a lower middle-class suburb of Faisalabad, were shot dead by an unknown assailant on July 19 morning only 18 days after a case was registered against them.
Till before their death, police was investigating to prove the charges, and the two accused had not confessed issuing blasphemous remarks printed in a phamphlet, according to senior investigator Muhammad Hanif.
The attacker -- still untraced by the police -- targeted the brothers a few yards away from the courtroom of senior civil judge at the highly guarded district courts in Faisalabad when a police officer was escorting them back to the jail.
"The attacker was a young man clad in lawyer's uniform – white shirt and black pants. He ran towards the rear side of the court building after the attack," says eyewitness Asad Ali, 42, a rickshaw driver, while showing bloodstains of the victims and bullet marks on the court's corridors walls a day after the incident. "Many people saw him running, but nobody dared catch him because he was carrying a gun. The police inspector tried to chase him but he was also shot and injured by the attacker," he adds.
Towards the end of June, according to police investigators, one man called Bilal found a blasphemous pamphlet, carrying derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and preaching Christianity. The two-page handwritten pamphlet surprisingly contained the names of two accused brothers and their contact numbers. "Somebody threw this handwritten pamphlet in Bilal's lap while commuting in a public transport bus coming to Faisalabad," a police investigator tells TNS while sitting in his office in Faisalabad.
Bilal handed over this pamphlet to Muhammad Ashraf, a worker in a printing factory. Ashraf gave this to the factory manager Muhammad Khurram Shahzad, 35, who informed the clerics of the city's main mosque leading to a hue and cry in the city.
A case under section 295C of Pakistan Penal Code was lodged by Muhammad Khurram Shahzad against the two brothers on July 1. The police arrested Raashid on July 5 while his younger brother surrendered a couple of days later after the police talked to the local Christian elders. "There were protests and announcements were made from various mosques against the accused," says Joseph Coutts, Catholic Bishop of Faisalabad. "The whole episode seems to be a trap as no one dare write blasphemous content and give his phone numbers and address as well."
Coutts adds after lodging the case, some extremist groups started protesting and demanding death sentence for the accused. There were threats after the FIR was lodged, but no security was provided to them.
The poor localities of Warispura and Daud Nagar in Faisalabad -- the industrial hub and the third largest city of Pakistan -- turned into a battlefield on Monday night when riots erupted after Christians started protesting against the killing of the two brothers. Following their violent protest, the Muslims in the area allegedly vandalised shops owned by Christians and desecrated local churches. Heavy contingents of police were deployed there to control the situation.
"Many scared Christian families have fled the area," says Nadeem Masih, 35, a resident of the locality. "Police was also siding with Muslims as it blocked our rally and took no action against the Muslim rioters."
Khadim Hussain Anwar, a Muslim resident of the area, tells TNS the derogatory pamphlet was widely circulated and led to protests by Muslim youth. "Photocopies of the pamphlet were circulated through shops and mosques," says human rights activist Sabir Anthony.
Lahore High Court Chief Justice took a suo motu notice of the killing of two alleged blasphemers and ordered a judicial inquiry into the matter two days after the attack. The regional police chief accepted before the court that they failed to ensure foolproof security to the victims, the Punjab law minister also admitted this in the Punjab Assembly session last Wednesday.
Muhammad Khurram Shahzad, the complainant in the case, has 'disappeared' after the incident. "I had no personal grudge against the brothers. I just got a pamphlet from my clerk and handed it over to authorities for a fair probe, and it was the police's job to look into it," he tells TNS on phone. "Authorities have advised me not to disclose my location as the situation is very tense. A week after the case was lodged, a Tehrik-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool (THR) delegation came to me, saying that henceforth they would follow the case. I don't know what happened after that."
THR is an alliance of different religious parties with Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) on the forefront. The movement for the past few months has been campaigning against Facebook after alleged blasphemous content.
A high-up of THR, asking not to be named, expressed ignorance about any meeting with Shahzad. "The protests started only after Christians held a violent protest and these protests were not held by any particular organisation. It was a spontaneous reaction by the local Muslim community," the THR official maintains.
Following the tension, police have lodged a case against around 800 Christians to pacify the charged Muslim community. "There are a few persons who always spread hatred against Christians in the area," says Iftikhar Masih, 29. "Hate speech is common against us. We think that Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and Tehrik-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool are the groups that stoked violence. Some shops and mosques had also been distributing cassettes of hate speeches against us."
Father of the victims, Emanuel is a retired low grade government officials. He has left the area along with his three sons and one daughter. Rashid Emanuel was married a year ago and was a pastor running a prayer group in the area. His younger brother Sajid was doing MBA. "We have no enmity. My brothers always denied this allegation," says a scared Sajan Masih, elder brother of the victims, while talking to TNS from a safe place. "We demand justice."
Police are still clueless about the killer and equally ignorant about the provocative speeches and protests in the area and distribution of pamphlets.
Handwriting expert's report to confirm if the pamphlet's writing samples matches the victim's writing is still awaited, an investigator tells TNS requesting anonymity.
Rana Ahmad Hassan, Senior Superintendent Police (investigations) and acting operational chief of Faisalabad, has nothing to add. "Why are you asking about the investigations? Don't you know this is a sensitive case? I cannot share anything with you," he tells TNS.
"I always imagined myself as
a painter until I found the object"
Adeela Suleman would like to be referred to as a multi-media artist. One of the country's leading installation artists, she works with diverse materials and different mediums and has exhibited prolifically across Pakistan and around the globe, earning kudos for her work in countries like Italy, Japan, Germany, UK, US where her cutting edge work finds appreciative audiences. As Coordinator, Fine Art Department at Indus Valley School she is keen to establish a vision for the department that will ensure a more vital focus for emerging art students.
Simultaneously, she is Coordinator of Vasl Artists' Collective, which is a forum for the exchange of ideas in art practice between art communities in Pakistan and abroad. Adeela is also an insightful curator and has successfully assimilated many successful shows. Attentive wife and mother of two, she is currently preparing for a solo show in New York.
By Nafisa Rizvi
The News on Sunday: Why did you opt for sculpture rather than painting as your medium of choice?
Adeela Suleman: It was one of those inherent yearnings that I did not articulate until I discovered it. I always imagined myself as a painter until I found the object. The tactile feel of the material in my hand, the facility with which I could envision its outcome convinced me that I had found my calling. I come from a family of 'makers'. My grandfather used to fashion objects out of wood -- combs, boxes and everyday items -- all in the pursuit of leisure, not profession. It's a genetic thing, and my father is eager to help me in the manufacturing process though I myself don't encounter irresolvable hurdles.
TNS: Many critics and artists feel that the fabrication of the object is a vital part of the artist's role. How do you feel about that?
AS: This is an age-old debate and the discourse on the subject has elicited innumerable theories and opinions. But I believe completely in my process and I never attempt to deceive my audience about the source and process of my work. As long as I am up front about what I do and how I do it, there is no issue. This debate however, is not limited to installation art. Now there are studios in China, which provide facilities for painters who can 'order' paintings, and the artist can then add his or her signature to the work. When you go to Italy and see the palace walls adorned by limitless amounts of beautiful art, you know that it is humanly impossible for one man to paint all that with such precision in one life time.
I use craft as found object. I make it my own by intervening in the design and by pushing the boundaries of the idea. But there are pieces in my studio which are made by me.
TNS: Why did you go from a Bachelor's degree in International Relations to Art?
AS: I had wanted to study art for my Bachelor's but my parents were a little hesitant because Indus Valley School was just starting off and my father wasn't sure if they would be given degree awarding status. By the time I finished my Bachelor's in International Relations from Karachi University, the School had its own campus and was awarding degrees so I joined the Fine Art Department at Indus Valley. I was older than the other students and it was a little awkward but exciting as well because I felt I had the advantage of experience over the others.
The Karachi University was a great learning ground. It opened my eyes to the real world since I came from a protected background. Every day was an adventure; with patrolling Rangers, incidents of tear-gassing and shootings, and my memories are filled with students, including my friends and I, running desperately for shelter in the midst of the wars of students groups. It was a rather hefty dose of reality and my years there have influenced my art immeasurably.
TNS: Are you a feminist?
AS: Anyone who believes that women are kept subservient in our society through the power structure, laws and conventions would be called a feminist. I don't focus on the feminist condition but in the process of making my art, I ponder over the issue repeatedly. Being a woman in this society makes me, by default, sympathetic to the cause of the woman and it reflects in my art because my personal experiences issue from the same source.
TNS: How does your art address these issues?
AS: I perceive the problems of the woman who is bound to her home by societal mores and conventions. My initial work dealt with the concept of the helmet as a protective device for women fashioned from everyday objects like teakettles, colanders, metal pots and pans and spoons. In one of my first few international exhibitions after I graduated, I created an elaborate installation which was called Salma Sitara and Sisters Motorcycle workshop in 2002, for Fukuoka, Japan. I formulated a kind of modern-day body armour that the couple sitting astride the motorbike would wear when they left the house.
It was significant to me that the man of the house wore a helmet while riding the bike but cared nothing for the safety of his wife or children riding with him. I used utensils and tools commonly found in the kitchen to fabricate the body suit for the woman ensuring that she would be protected during her ride. Her helmet consisted of a colander and her footrests were made of spoons. In addition, there was adequate protection for her babies who would travel in velvet-lined bins, firmly attached to the bike.
TNS: How did that connect to the next body of work, the one that consisted of tentacle-like forms in brilliant red?
AS: It grew from the use of the perforated drain cover. When you are able to visualise the conversion of a found object in your head, other ready-mades begin to take on additional meaning and metaphorical content. I used the drain cover along with long shower pipes and motorbike silencers to emulate organic structures that told a story of the male chauvinistic stance, (literally the silencer or muzzler of women) and female receptivity. But the work was more metaphysical than feminist. I created a canoe or boat-like object that held implications of the human journey through life and suggested the macabre elements of death within its confines.
TNS: There is a degree of ornamentation in your work? Do you feel that it detracts from the seriousness of the work?
AS: Not at all. The decorative element in fact makes the work more poignant and cutting edge. Also it stems from the kind of person I am. I enjoy the element of aesthetic decoration in my life, in my sartorial choices, in my house. And it's not an external influence, it's something grounded in our local culture. In my praxis, I use motifs and designs that occur frequently in our everyday lives like painted roses and repousse peacocks.
TNS: In your last show you exhibited only one female form and a coffin shaped box. From a room full of objects as in the Japan show, your work has become more minimal in output. Why is that?
AS: The work is more intense and immediate. I feel I can articulate the concept with just as much expressiveness and lucidity with half the production. I still put in as much effort and the process is just as intensive.
TNS: There seemed to be humour in your work before but it's been overtaken by darker elements. Is this a correct reading of your work?
AS: Yes, but that's part of the growth process. There's always a loss of innocence and naiveté at some point. Many occurrences over the last few years have created anxiety in my life and my vision has become darker. But I'm not pessimistic or disillusioned, just older.
Rashid Rana exhibits at Musee Guimet, Paris
By Quddus Mirza
Rashid Rana's show is being held from July 7 to November 15, 2010 at the Musee Guimet in Paris, one of the most prestigious museums of France. Titled 'Perpetual Paradox', the exhibition comprises Rana's selected works from 1992 to 2009. At a point when Pakistan is in the international news for all the wrong reasons, the solo exhibition of a Pakistani artist in a mainstream museum of art in Europe is nothing short of a major achievement.
Musee Guimet is known for its large acquisition of Asian and Oriental art; thus the contemporary works by Rashid Rana are juxtaposed with pieces from the museum's permanent collection. Hence, a dialogue between the new and the old is created; more so because the artist's work can be considered a continuation of traditional aesthetics into modern era and sensibility. The exhibition, displayed at the two floors of the museum, is arranged in five sections, each segment highlighting an aspect of Rana's formal and conceptual concerns.
In the first section, called The Idea of Abstract, the notion of abstraction is explored through a diversity of scale, medium and visual constructions -- mainly the grid. It appears that for the artist, the grid is a means to maintain the two-dimensionality of picture plane; at the same instance, it is a vehicle to investigate, expand and extend the 'conventional' concept of abstraction. In these works, Rana locates the contrast and contradiction between the readable imagery and a purely sensory surface. So the apparently abstract canvases from earlier periods can be seen as attempts to reflect upon the language of abstraction. In this section, bar codes, idea of space and the balance between verticality and horizontality lead to latter digital prints and installations, along with a multiplicity of meanings and sensibility.
The second part of the exhibition, Transcending Tradition, that consists of four digital works, deals with an important issue of our time and culture -- the tradition. Tradition has assumed an importance for cultures like ours with a rich heritage; the main conflict being how to balance the past and the present.
Rana addresses the notion of tradition as an emblem or illusion of permanence, and creates new meanings of tradition. Reconstructing familiar forms from heritage, ranging from Mughal portraiture, to ornaments in architecture and patterns of Persian carpet, Rashid has introduced the visual culture and the present political scenario in these familiar, fantastic and famous art objects. Bill boards, printed advertisements and photographs of a slaughterhouse -- all contemporary pictorial images -- are converted into pristine pictures from a distant past, hence building a bridge between the two divisions of Time, that exist side by side in the culture of Pakistan, South Asia and many other parts of the world.
Real Time, Other Spaces, the third section of 'Perpetual Paradox', provides an occasion to focus on formal areas. By trespassing illusion and actuality of an object, Rana constructs a reality that is not restricted to art only. In an age marked by multiple modes of representing, through media and other organs of public opinion, one is accustomed to more than one version of the 'real'. Hence the visuals in this part of the exhibition, a building from Lahore and ordinary items such as stove, books and flower vases, define and describe the difference between real and its representation. Particularly in this body of work, dealing with the issue of time and space, Rana has frozen the feeling of a moving image (in video, film etc) into a solid and static object.
Taking the same ideas and practices into a wider realm, the fourth component of the exhibition, labelled Between Flesh And Blood, comprises works related to the current conditions in our country -- and elsewhere. In these digital prints, the contradiction of apparent and inherent, physical and spiritual, formal and carnal is conceived through juxtaposition of visuals that belong to opposite domains. Sources of art, such as abstract paintings and a canvas by French painter, Gustave Courbet, have been reinterpreted and reconstructed, to suffice the content pertinent in our surroundings. References to skin, blood, wounds and cuts in the flesh are transformed into visuals associated with high art or pictures of pleasurable pursuits. Relying on the abundance of violence, both in its actuality and its virtual portrayal in media, Rashid Rana formulates a language that is extremely formal, yet multi-folded in its pictorial constructions, aesthetic quality, circumstantial references and contextual aspects. The work involves a range of views concerning political situations as well as pictorial conditions within a world that, ethically, ethnically and aesthetically is divided much like pixels in/of the digital prints.
The last section, Self in Other, brings forth a pertinent question of our circumstances -- how to position oneself in connection with others? Or in other words how is one's image perceived through others' eyes -- just like a mirror. Like one's name and face are mostly uttered or seen by others. Hence, an individual is fully perceived only when he is reflected by outsiders. A simple phenomenon, that extends to the construct of national identity too. Dealing with these ideas, Rana critiques the notion of nationhood by creating images of national, regional, local and familiar substance. Issues such as rural urban divide, the shift from local to international, patriotic and populist, or colonial control and indigenous indignation, are a few elements reflected in the works shown in this section.
Viewing -- or reviewing -- these works at the Musee Guimet, one realises how a contemporary artist manages to connect with the past, while remaining relevant to his times. The exhibition, being held in the heart of Paris, is significant for many reasons, one of which is that artists can be the only bridge between the actual and the imagined, the past and the present, the personal and the public realities.
Khalid Malik Haider's latest book is part of the movement that started to liberate knowledge of music from the person
By Sarwat Ali
Mausiqi Ki Pehli Kitab/Sangeet Phuaar
By Khalid Malik Haider
Ahmed Publications-Lahore 2010
Khalid Malik Haider lives in Peshawar and has consistently contributed to the worthy cause of music. Urdu Mausiqi and Sur Singhar, his earlier contributions, have now been followed by Mausiqi Ki Pehli Kitab with a compendium Sangeet Phuaar, the knowledge of music as sung.
The knowledge of music was limited to certain families who specialised in this art form as a hereditary obligation. It resulted in extreme virtuosity and also created a group of learned and initiated listeners but this group was not very large nor did it comprise a wholesome section of the population. The limited technological facilities too restricted music to being only performed live -- it could only exist in time and once performed become history never to be recreated or reproduced again.
All this changed with the invention of the recording facilities. Recording has its own limitations but it surely does have many advantages; the most obvious being that the outreach of music increases tremendously and the people who do not have either the means to host an artiste or organise private sittings with them can access the best exponents in recorded form.
As the recordings were released for masses, it increased the curiosity about the inner workings of music besides introducing the listener to a wider variety of forms and genres. Ordinary people have always been curious about how music works, and most not being initiated just rest with the easy explanation that it hangs as divine/devil equilibrium between the dreamland of magic and the occult with unseen power to move and captivate.
Gramophone records were popular but were given a boost by the release of film music on it and that increased the curiosity of the listener further because he wanted to know in which raag and taal, the song he liked was composed in. The ordinary listener always wanted to enter the haloed ground of classical raags and bandishes through his own likes and dislikes especially as exposed to him in the song format.
Most of the composers were well-versed in classical music and composed the songs in some raags, thought taking due liberties in the making of the compositions. Many of the music lovers and teachers though that by introducing the raag through film song or some popular composition was a good and handy way to breach the forbidding high walls of a classical art form. So many books and text references were written and printed by various ustads regarding the playing of the harmonium and then notating popular songs on them for the reader and the listener to play and sing. And as an aside get to know in the raag and the taal.
This change has been going on for some time. By the middle of the 19th century the changing scenario conditioned the whole nature of pedagogy with a more formal system of education replacing a more informal and familial set up. Universities and colleges were established where education became a matter of learning for a certain number of hours before the students returned home and prepared for the next day at school or college compared to the other indigenous system where the students were tied to the apron strings of the ustad.
A whole movement started to liberate musical knowledge from the person. The same trend of impersonalisation of knowledge in music was also being enforced. And obviously textbooks were required where there were none. Bathkhande and V.D.Paluskar led the charge of this new change and an entire industry sprung up which transferred on to books the musical knowledge. Many books were written about what was sur, raag, thaat, and then many compositions were notated within a rhythmical structure more with the intention of instruction. What Bhatkhande did in the early part of the 20th century was to notate the raags and the bandishes that were sung in his times. After him many others have arrived on the scene with their own bandishes and compositions. In Khalid Malik Haider 's earlier book the bandishes were not mustanid or certified in the sense that these have been composed by a famous ustad and have been sung over a time period but were new and seemed to have been composed by the author himself.
Mausiqi Ki Pahli Kitab also has spelled out the difference between western music based on harmony and chords and the manner in which the composition takes place aided by a highly developed system of notation and our music based on melody and the raag as a framework for improvising the melodic structure round these notes. The system primarily rests in the memory of the exponent and his ability to spontaneously improvise. These days when the systems in the world too are influencing each other this is a good introduction to the similarities and dissimilarities of the various systems with their individual intonations.