Fact in fiction
A new book by the French philosopher Elisabeth Badinter has stirred up the debate on the state of feminism -- or the decline of feminism or the women's movement -- in whatever terms you wish to describe the issue.
The bill on Human Organ and Tissue Transplant becomes an Act after a long struggle spanning almost 20 years
By Waqar Gillani
President Asif Ali Zardari turned a new leaf by signing the Human Organ and Tissue Transplant Bill into an Act on March 17 a long-standing demand of medical professionals of the country. Experts believe it will deter the illegal sale of human organs, but may not put an end to it entirely.
The bill, promulgated as an ordinance by the former president Pervez Musharraf on November 3, 2007, became a law in February 2009 after being passed by the parliament and has now been signed by the head of the state. The law aims at providing for removal, storage and transplantation of human organs and tissues for therapeutic purposes. The law will also monitor transplantation and enforce prescribed standards for recognised medical institutions and hospitals.
Pakistan is considered a major market that sold human organs by exploiting poor people. A mafia, comprising many private hospitals in big cities like Lahore, Karachi and Rawalpindi, deals in this illegal business. These hospitals receive patients from across the country as well as from Europe, Middle East and other parts of the world to purchase human organs from poor donors.
These hospitals have been running a network of agents who invite and sometimes force people to sell their organs for a paltry amount. A surgery for a kidney transplant, including the amount paid to the donor, cost up to Rs1.5 million a couple of years back when the business was at its peak.
According to the law, "A living donor who is not less than 18 years may, during his lifetime, voluntarily donate any organ or tissue of his body to any other living person genetically and legally related (close blood relative)." The close blood relative means parent, son, daughter, sister, brother and spouse. In case of non-availability of close blood relation, an Evaluation Committee – which is functional at hospital level – may allow a non close blood relative to donate after satisfying itself that the donation is voluntary. The evaluation committee would comprise specialists and two reputed local notables at every hospital where this facility of transplantation is provided.
The federal government has also formed a monitoring authority to keep an eye on the procedure and check if unrecognised hospitals are offering transplantation. The authority, however, consists of federal health minister, secretary Health Department, surgeon general, president of Pakistan Transplantation Society and any other experts. Some reputed professionals fear that such top officials will not be able to focus on this important issue consistently and may tend to shift responsibility onto their juniors.
Dr Mahreen Razaque Bhutto, Parliamentary Secretary Health, however, thinks differently, believing media could play a vital role in making this authority efficient. "The authority is functional and the evaluation committees are also working at the local level," she informs TNS.
The law clearly says all transplantation other than this therapeutic purpose (defined in the law) is illegal and will face a strict sentence. "Whoever renders his services to or at any medical institution or hospital for the purposes of transplantation and removal of any human organ without any authority shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years and with a fine which may extend to one million rupees. If the guilty person is a registered medical practitioner, his name shall be reported to Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) for removal from the register of the council for three years for the first time and permanently for the subsequent offence," the law reads.
Section 11 of the law says, "Whosoever makes or receives any payment for the supply of, or for an offer to supply, a human organ; seeks to find a person willing to supply for payment of any human organ; offers to supply for payment; initiates or negotiates any arrangement for payment of any human organ; takes part in the management, publishes or distributes advertisement will be awarded 10 years imprisonment and up to one million rupees fine."
A complaint can be lodged with the monitoring authority only; and if the authority does not respond to the complaint within 15 days, the complainant can go to police directly.
Prof Dr Sibtul Hasnain, Chairman PMDC, terms the law effective, but urges the public to get up against the illegal practitioners and lodge complaints against them. "It is an effective law and needs effective implementation," he tells TNS.
"The law, interestingly, is silent about the people who are selling their organs outside the country, especially in China and India," Prof Arif Rasheed Khawaja, consultant general liver and special advisor (for medical education) to the vice-chancellor of University of Health Sciences (UHS), says. "The blood relation is important in kidney donation, but not for donating liver," he says, adding, "The liver surgery is mostly needed for Hepatitis-C or cancer."
"About 60 percent donors travel to India and China to sell their livers," Khawaja discloses, suggesting more checks in the law by making DNA test compulsory, as done in India, to check whether the donor is related to the patient or not.
The law has a detailed procedure of donating and transplanting human organs after death if the deceased had willed to donate. President Zardari has also donated his organs after death. The law says a committee will evaluate donation by the deceased according to his/her will.
Dr Farrukh A Khan, urologist and founder president of Pakistan Transplant Society, who has also donated his organs after death, tells TNS the law is passed after a long struggle. "Mainly it was done after pressure from World Health Organisation and tremendous efforts by the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT)," he says, adding the law, if implemented honestly, can definitely stop the illegal sale of human organs.
"Though illegal business of selling and transplanting organs still continues, police can act now on a complaint. The police was unable to check the business in the past due to absence of a law. Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) will have to play a more effective role in stopping this illegal business," Dr Khan maintains.
Human organs that can be transplanted include kidney, heart, liver, eye, joints and now face too. According to official statistics of SIUT, the patient population of the institute was 270,000 in 2002 as compared to 691,010 in 2009. There have been 544 renal transplants in 2009 as compared to 115 in 2002.
A senior official of the SIUT, Prof S.A. Anwar Naqvi, says this law is a result of a long struggle spanning almost 20 years. "Civil society, print and electronic media, intellectuals and clergy supported us in this struggle. Now it is up to the media and medical professionals to educate people about this law," Naqvi concludes.
The work of Ahmed Ali Manganhar is both confronting and compassionate, presenting a striking blend of personal mythology, craftsmanship and intuition
By Aasim Akhtar
The post-colonial artist invariably has had to define his sought-after modernity through the grille of nationalism. Any identification with the new has had to locate itself through the actualities of the anti-imperialist struggle, producing that familiar split between the desire to enter the international circuits of modernist culture and the desire to retain self-identity through forms of local distinctiveness. The ensuing tensions over post-colonial artistic identity, therefore, have distorted or dissipated the reception of avant-garde culture.
Ahmed Ali Manganhar is an artist who can be described as at the cutting edge of these conflicts. Turning away from the traditional encounter between nationalist sign and modernist apparatus to a programmatic avant-gardist concern with the semiotic potential of cultural materials, his work of late bears witness to a greater sense of ideological mobility in contemporary Pakistani art. That is, the earnest concern to simulate the signs of the indigenous is absent, replaced by what might be called a politicised intertextuality.
Manganhar's work has moved in line with the critique of aesthetics and cultural identity developed in the late 1980s among artists and intellectuals in Pakistan. The result has been the working up of new versions of a politics of montage and hybridisation, in which the sense of the oppositional artist as being 'outside' is exchanged for one in which he is seen as working from the 'inside.'
Though the art world has long prided itself on its tolerance for idiosyncratic cosmologies, there are still true believers out there whose single-mindedness outstrips even the forbearance of the avant-garde. For such artists, there typically awaits a lifetime of professional disappointment relieved only, if ever, by an official designation as an 'outsider,' that class of cultural identity that transforms the very pathologies that originally barred its members' assimilation by the mainstream.
The world is full of all sorts of dictatorships, sovereign entities accountable only to their own rules and united by extreme structures of political and social violence. The most formidable, however, is the one whose dimensions are no longer limited by the old boundaries of the nation-state, but which instead span and exceed such territorial limits in a way unparalleled in history. Ahmed Ali Manganhar's current exhibition of mixed-media drawings entitled "Non-commissioned Historical Drawings' at the Zahoor-ul-Akhlaque Gallery, NCA, Lahore, offered a thorough analysis of this novel type of deterritorialised rule and sovereign power, and the artist's goal is nothing less than to unmask it and lay bare its prominent features for a new millennium. And yet, appearing at the beginning of the 21st century, the works are imbued with a sense and mood of taking stock, of reflecting on the aftermath. The Empire -- the name given to the Leviathan rising above every other economic and political form – is a relatively benign dictatorship that radically revises the idea of sovereignty.
Ahmed Ali Manganhar's Pakistan is a contemporary one, where old traditions and new influences constantly jar intrudingly upon each other, and he refuses to find comfort in either. His is a Pakistan of social trauma brought on by colonialism. His paintings point out the role artists have had in recent years in de/reconstructing the identity of the Pakistani artist, citing paintings and literature that address the effects of neo-colonialism. Manganhar's works in this exhibition is about mutilation, betrayal, and control; they point to a fractured social contract and bad faith. His timeless figures defy specific classification and speak to any culture on the roles of men and women, those discriminated against, and the underprivileged.
In his art at least, Manganhar's dedication to his subjects deflects ultimate suspicion of prurience. If we consider the incendiary mixture of sexual violence, commodification, and repression manifest in our culture, we may find, as is typical with visionaries, that the strange world the artist illuminates is the one before our eyes. In any case, the ambiguity surrounding his art, however sinister, is part of its gravity. More than any one example of his art, or the often astonishing elements of his style, it's Manganhar's grand theme of imperilled innocence and his devout treatment of it that are so compelling -- if eerily familiar. We return to him as we do to the mystics -- for a sense of the person and of the vision, however unknowable it turns out to have been, that sustained them.
Ahmed Ali corrals bleeding ink into feathery, mottled images of men by turns gorgeous and grotesque in their self-presentation. The paint's thick, crumpled texture and brackish, blood and mud coloured shellacked surface, along with the detailed ferocity of the Armageddon depicted, make for a nightmarish combination. One must get close to the work, as if entering hell, to discern arrays of silhouetted configurations or the plaintive tableaux of wounded and dead in the lower foreground. In articulating his excruciatingly kinetic vision, Manganhar seems to have drawn on every technique at his disposal in order to depict the fury of battles both physical and psychological.
Contemplation, celebration, mystery and stillness; Ahmed Ali attempts, through his art, to name the unnamable. His compassion, his modesty, his singular vision does not allow him to offer didactic certainties or absolutes, "only hints and guesses, /Hints followed by guesses; /and the rest/ Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action".
The work of Ahmed Ali Manganhar is both confronting and compassionate, presenting a striking blend of personal mythology, craftsmanship and intuition. The cultural and even emotional atmosphere suggested by his work is instantly recognizable as one of nostalgia. His colossal drawings whisk the viewer into a fantasy world of dominating and disproportionate political colonial landscapes, blending dream and reality. These unexpected tableaux powerfully capture the brutal fallout of geo-politics, echoing a disorder in society that verges on panic.
Within this chaos, each element is in fact set carefully into a master plan of spatial composition and historical context, whether it be the portrait of Sir Richard Burton, the railway track with billowing smoke, or the disfigured marble bust of a former colonial governor.
It is due in part to his personal training as a sceptic that Manganhar's work comprises a sense of ambiguity. His pieces often juxtapose danger and beauty, pushing and pulling the viewer's interpretation in different directions. He is exploring the contradictory aspects of reality, demonstrating that something can be at once seductively beautiful yet imminently dangerous.
The allusions forming his world are familiar enough. Broken, trampled upon busts of former monarchs, and a decapitated man searching for his head, as camouflage patterns and high hats cloak ballroom pianos. Many images evoke a strong sense of loss, while others offer a promising recourse. Manganhar uses his surface as an experimental zone, suffusing perennial observations with moments of inspiration. The result is a provocative, occasionally unsettling amalgam of his myriad artistic influences.
Recently concluded six-day Alhamra Theatre Festival 2010 mounted productions of unknown plays by unknown groups -- a fact that augurs well for theatre
By Sarwat Ali
Alhamra has been hosting theatre festivals quite regularly in all the years of its existence and the recently concluded six day festival was billed as the Alhamra Theatre Festival 2010. It therefore owes a special responsibility towards the development and nourishment of theatre in the country.
The decision to rent out its halls to artistes wanting to do a play in order to facilitate them artistically and financially was misused. Fortunately, those days are behind us because the number of private halls which can be taken on rent has increased and Alhamra has lost its monopolistic control. The authorities have also become more vigilant in stopping and discouraging the exploitation of a facility.
The plays staged at the festival were 'Mera Kiya Qasoor', 'Kali Sawari', 'Soch', 'Jhoot Key Paon', 'Raees Khana' and 'Ik Kharka'. Most of the plays were conventionally staged, for they were conventional plays, only the sets and the props were minimal -- which was the limit of experiment the plays indulged in. A sense of realism was being introduced in the productions by keeping the sets simple.
The plays dealt with themes that have become stock themes in theatre. The two Punjabi plays 'Ik Kharka' and 'Kaali Sawari' were more in the mode of satires. It has become quite common to use Punjabi language for the purpose of satirical humour; the language itself forms content of the play and is used in such a manner that it evokes laughter. This trend has been taken to its limits by standup comedians in popular commercial theatre in the country. But since the actors were not really top of the line in these plays, language and its use was not taken full advantage of. The plays written by Amin Akhtar Sindhu and Saleem Murad and directed by Azam Sehar and Zeshan Ali respectively were rather controlled affairs where humour was not outrageous but kept within bounds.
'Mera Kiya Qasoor' written and directed by Amir Nawaz, was a typical play in Urdu that had gained currency during the early days of theatre in the country when the plays of Noël Coward were seen as the models to be emulated in drawing room settings.
'Raees Khana' was the only play that was by a well-known writer, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, and the difference was quite clear. It was despite the adaptation quite crisp and did not retard the action as is the wont when language unnecessarily draws attention to itself. Directed by Kashif Abbas, it could be classed as a better production in the festival.
"Jhoot key Paon', written by Shaukat Zaidi and directed by Aqeel Ahmed, was also a reasonable production that did not test the limits of the audience by indulging in some kind of experimentation -- its didactic intent was treated with a clear obviousness.
'Soch' by M A Maqsood was one play that was quite abstract in its theme and also in its treatment. As the title suggested, the abstract nature should have been placed in the rough and tumble of existence and then given a local habitation and a name. The truth when placed within the parameters of reality begins to speak of its multi-dimensionality. It could have been a play which made the audience think -- because it made the incidence of truth and reality a changing entity which could not be reduced to absoluteness. The theme was good and also quite relevant but the treatment could have been much better in making it less abstract.
The plays were by groups and persons not that well-known in the theatre circles. The plays selected by them were not recognisable either. In both cases it augurs well for theatre because it makes bigger the repertoire and widens the pool of players ultimately responsible for mounting a production.
Alhamra being a public sector organisation can take the initiatives which private producers cannot. Artistes from the districts can be asked to perform here. The practitioners can make this as the place of their rebirth and can invite groups from other cities of the country. The theatre exchange between Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad is not as much as it should be. Alhamra can ask the students to perform from various colleges and universities.
All this cited above is usually done by Alhamra but it appears that an aggregated build up is missing. Perhaps what is required is greater frequency of such festivals -- so that the impact does not fizzle out, rather builds a momentum and is seen to make a difference.
Art of Bani Abidi is a creative individual's quest to find meaning in apparently meaningless and ordinary images
By Quddus Mirza
Reality is the prime concern of an artist. The history of visual arts is a record of discovering strategies to portray the world as real. The concept of real kept changing though: what was real for the Egyptians was not true for the Greeks who evolved their separate mode of representing reality. This mode -- that involved the use of perspective in painting etc. -- flourished in the Renaissance period, leading to the school of Realism in the early nineteenth century Europe, especially France.
These attempts to render reality culminated with the invention of camera that is still employed to capture reality. To this day, everyone believes that camera captures reality in a faithful, objective and impartial way. Actually it only creates an illusion of reality, rather than reproducing it. E. H. Gombrich mentions in the Story of Art that before colour photography, people thought black and white pictures were 'real' images of people, places and events. Likewise Jean Paul Sartre in his essay on war points out the limitation of photography, because it crops the whole view and offers only a section. This may not be the actual representation of reality because other elements in its surroundings may contradict the 'truth' recorded in photograph. A simple example is a picture of a man sitting alone on a bench conveying a sense of solitude, but a wider lens or frame tells us the subject is accompanied by many people.
This deceptive characteristic of camera -- extensively exploited by our media these days -- negates the commonly held belief that it documents and describes reality. Instead, it is a tool that distorts it. But a common man may think that whatever is presented through camera or television or newspapers for that matter is factual and must be accepted as such.
The link between fact and fiction in photography and its modern version, video, was explored by Bani Abidi in her works displayed from March 3-17, 2010, at V.M. Gallery Karachi. In a series of photographs, various individuals are engaged in different activities on the roadsides. In ironing, shaving, doing make up, reading paper and other such acts, which normally are not conducted in public, these people appear intriguing, as their faces are turned away from the camera and the spectator. All this is happening at the time of dusk. Bani, a traveller between cultures and countries, has focused on "Others" in/of a society; because all the models, apparently from non-Muslim background, are out on the street at the moment of breaking fast in Ramzan, an hour when public spaces are deserted.
In a sense, Bani's orchestrated photographs can be read as a metaphor about owning a territory by a marginalised community at a time when the centre stage is empty. Hence the 'other' that is faithfully represented and portrayed could be an alter ego of the artist, who divides her time between nations, religions and political boundaries. In a similar sense, Abidi's video installation Reserved negotiates between reality and its fabrication. In the double screen video, the public is "shown" waiting for dignitaries. Motorcade, police cars, anxious officials, expectant audience, as well as school children gathered to welcome the VIP is a mega project to portray fact through fiction. Each frame and every model in the video was arranged by the artist, yet the video communicates a reality that is believable truth and common experience.
Although not obviously rendered or stated, the video -- besides moving between actuality and imagination -- addresses the institution of "power". Its invisibility, invincibility and indispensability became apparent in the work because everyone -- including young kids, police officers, pedestrians and the crowd coming for the ceremony -- kept waiting for the man of power whose presence is felt even when he is away. The video can be a symbol of political Messiah who is always awaited but fails to make an appearance or deliver.
Anticipation of a powerful entity is the subject of a series of digital prints by Bani Abidi. In these prints, originally made in ink and transferred in digital media, she has drawn intercoms installed at various houses. Actually different designs picked from one street in Karachi refer to the situation of security in our environment. Looking at the present work, one is bound to recall Abidi's series of similar prints with drawings of barricades made a few years ago. In both cases, the artist has observed the subtle but significant change of our social and visual existence.
In more than one ways, the art of Bani Abid is a creative individual's quest to find meaning in apparently meaningless and ordinary images. She stops, looks, locates, preserves and transforms reality in a way that the distinction between reality and fantasy ceases to exist.
A new book by the French philosopher Elisabeth Badinter has stirred up the debate on the state of feminism -- or the decline of feminism or the women's movement -- in whatever terms you wish to describe the issue.
In 'The Conflict: The Woman and The Mother' the 66-year-old Badinter has strongly criticised the trend towards full time motherhood -- the breast feeding, earth-mother, approach that involves redefining a woman's identity in terms of the baby's needs. She postulates that women, despite great strides in the workplace and law, have now imposed the tyranny of motherhood upon themselves and that this is not a good thing. Her view is that they have replaced male oppression with the tyranny of the baby and are quite virtuous about this new form of bondage.
Naturally her book has produced strong and angry reactions but you can also see her point. She says women should be able to retain some balance between their own lives, identities and marriages along with the whole process of the initial years of motherhood. She disapproves of women who neglect themselves and their husbands at the expense of the great baby project and who so immerse themselves in the project that they lose touch with their other life....
I agree with her to some extent even though I am a working mother, who has raised two children both of whom were breastfed for the first year of their lives. Badinter proposes getting a balance between your work and your children and surely that is what we should be striving to do instead of choosing between one or the other? I find it astonishing that even in this day and age childcare provisions by employers are lacking. A mother trying to get back to work after a year of maternity and other leaves gets absolutely no support from her employer even in the large organisations of the developed world. It is astonishing that there is legislation governing so many areas of the workplace but this is still not one of them, even though its utility would not be restricted to women only but would be useful to a number of fathers also.
My experience is that women are still slightly unclear as to what they think they should demand from their employers or what form any changes should take. Having children still makes them feel a little apologetic, almost a little disabled in the workplace.
Sometimes the struggle is just too much and it is a relief to give up work and not having to deal with the stress of the conflicting demands of work and motherhood. And sometimes this is when those women who can afford to give up work then turn this martyred form of motherhood into a project, making every stage of it into a huge dramatic production showcasing their superior capabilities (forging social links with the 'right' paediatrician, keeping the child away from normal childhood activity on the basis that it is 'dangerous', spoon feeding the child instead of teaching it some table manners, continuing to either breastfeed or give milk bottles to an older child etc. etc) In general just making a big deal of the whole thing....
What is preferable is if women would make more demands of the people who can change things. Demand flexible working conditions, demand more childcare or the integration of crèches and feeding facilities within the workplace. Demand a choice of benefits that can be useful to the family... But alas, nobody who can does.
Badinter basically says that women need to reclaim their lives for themselves -- which is no bad thing. For example, we might have come to a stage in the women's movement when we believe breastfeeding the baby is best for the first year, so what we should do is strive to integrate it into our normal and working lives. Women in white collar work should demand changes in the working conditions and women in rural areas and from lower income groups should be similarly empowered -- by law. Employers could set up crèches and schools and thus ensure their women workers remain loyal and productive and are not troubled by all sort of childcare conflicts...
Personally what troubles me a lot less than all the earth mothers is the sorts of shoes women are now choosing to wear.... oh those killer heels are implements of torture! Why are women wearing them? Because it makes them feel good or because they think it will make them look 'hot' to men? Or is it because that's what Vogue magazine said they should wear?
The debate continues....