LAHORE: River in an ocean – a collateral, visual arts exhibition event of the Lahore Biennale Foundation was held in Gulberg, showcasing the works of more than 27 artists with a focus on feminist ideology and gender perspectives..
The exhibition being held in the honour of Lala Rukh, an artist who passed away in July last year, also takes its name from one of her works, “River In An Ocean”.
The exhibition has been curated by Abdullah Qureshi and Natasha Malik, along with Saira Ansari who serves as the advisor on the project.
The exhibition centers itself around ideas of gender identity in Pakistan and in the larger Muslim context, and how it has developed and changed in areas and communities full of heteronormativity culture and norms.
A small but revolutionary step towards actually bringing many voices and ideas into, not the mainstream, but at least into hearing range in such places as Pakistan, the exhibition featured numerous artists expressing themselves through painting, sculpture, photography as well as a live display.
One of the major crowd pullers has been Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Jr, the son of the late Murtaza Bhutto, who has recently been more open about his involvement in the queer arts community in America, including performing drag. His earlier series Musalman Muscleman is reflected in his works from his latest floral conceptions of a post-queer revolution Muslim world.
Other artists included Amra Khan, Anushka Rustomji & Zara Asgher, Aziz Sohail, Damon Kowarsky, Faraz Aamer Khan, Farsam Zafar & Waleed Zafar, Fiza Khatri, Haider Ali Akmal, Hilde Krohn Huse, Imran Nafees Siddiqui, Lali Khalid, Maha Ahmed, Malcolm Hutcheson, Mohsin Shafi, Mustafa Boğa, Natasha Jozi, Noor Choudry & Harris Chowdhary, Noorus Saba Saeed, Rabila Kidwai, Rehan Bashir & Gillian Rhodes, Saba Khan, Sarah Mumtaz, Seyhr Qayum, Ujala Hayat, Vidha Saumya, and Zahrah Ehsan.
However, wisely, the organisers have chosen to stay away from any bold or sweeping claims and ideas, recognising that even the subtlest of acceptances and promotions of such ideas are revolutionary in a way that is conducive and productive to the struggles of gender identity.
The project’s advisor Saira Ansari, commenting on the choice of Lala Rukh’s series “River in The Ocean”, acknowledged the more thoughtful rather than confrontational side of the exhibition writing, “The poetry lies in how they (Abdullah and Natasha) chose not to use an obvious political work from her activism, but instead a quiet contemplative work.”
The entire exhibition did show a more subdued side of a struggle that has otherwise been silent in this country. Despite this, it was aware enough of its material reality to acknowledge that it did not encompass all struggles, even in the queer community, and was simply a beginning to, hopefully, some form of dialogue.
“They (Abdullah and Natasha) also understood that neither will their attempt be comprehensive, nor works include the representative of a whole,” wrote Saira.
The show continues 21 – 31 March, 10.00am – 5.00pm