Despite visa hiccups, Pak artists get eyeballs at India Art Fair

New Delhi, Jan 30 (IANS) The Taseer Gallery from Lahore may be evoking lot of curiosity at the ongoing India Art Fair, but visa issues still remain a bone of contention as some of the Pakistan artists were denied the travel documents.

Despite big talk of improving relations between the two countries, only one artist representing the Pakistan gallery could make it to India, while three of them were denied visas.

This is ironoc as the four-day Fair has a special focus on emerging artists from South Asian countries this year. The eighth edition of the fair opened to public on Friday.

Farida Batool, the only artist who managed to get visa at the “last moment” said that other artists were denied the document on political grounds.

“I got visa at 12’clock at night, the day before I started the journey and the other three artists didn’t got it. The denial of visa is clearly a political issue. It is unfotunate and our governments have to work on this,” Badool told IANS. Her work ‘Eik Shehr Jo Udaas Hai (a city that is sad) reflects the political situation in Pakistan.

Using the metaphor of walls, Badool’s piece is a commentary on life in Lahore in 2009, when it was attacked by Taliban. The work, which shows long brick walls has lives of people on rooftops.

“I used the metaphor of wall since Lahore is known as the wall city. When Lahore was attacked by Taliban in 2009, people started to erect walls to safeguard their homes. In my work, you can see that there a life covered by walls,” said Batool, who is also a political activist.

Referring to the incidents of resistance against artists and artworks in India, Batool says that artists haven’t faced much opposition from Pakistan. “I guess, it’s because in Pakistan, the government never considered artists as very important people. We had our share of movements by artists and arrests and all,” she added.

Another work, titled “Dekhna Manaa Hai! (Seeing is prohibited)” is a horizontal display of over 450 pairs of male eyes placed like tiles on the wall with varied expressions.

“The work is a critique on the male gaze. Any woman who live in a South Asian country can relate to it. We are always aware that the male gaze is following us. In my work, all the eyes are looking at me and winking. Its a kind of performance ,” said Batool, who is a teacher by profession.

The artist, who has a masterÂ’s in art history and theory from the College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales, is also involved in cultural activities in Lahore in preserving the city’s heritage.

According to Sanam Taseer, owner of Taseer gallery, visa issues haven’t dampened the spirit. “The response is quite good and we have a steady stream of visitors,” said Taseer adding that the curation is about different aspects of life in Lahore.

Other artists who are displayed at the gallery include Saba Khan, Mohsin Shafi and Humaira Abid. “These four young artists are talking about the various hues of the life in Lahore,” Batool said.

The fair, which concludes on Sunday, has a significant presence from Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

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